Netherlands (TFC)— The Dutch government must now conduct a required referendum on a controversial surveillance law. If passed, it would augment Dutch intelligence agency’s and their monitoring abilities. The referendum came after 300,000 citizens signed a petition organized to protect privacy rights.
According to Reuters, the new surveillance bill would empower Dutch intelligence agencies to covertly gather data on groups of people at once. VPN Compare reported the Dutch Intelligence and Security Services Act would allow agencies to collect data, regardless of if citizens were suspected of anything. “They’re also authorizing hacking of third parties. It’s an incentive for intelligence agencies to collect zero-day vulnerabilities”, says Nina Boelsums, one of five college students who organized the petition.
A zero day vulnerability is a weakness that system developers and users arn’t aware of. Some hackers, dubbed White Hats, exploit zero day’s to demonstrate clear and fixable flaws in system security. Others aren’t so benevolent, and some of those work for the government.
By channeling public outrage into a petition, privacy activists forced the government’s hand. According to its own laws, a vote on a “non-binding” referendum is required.
Although non-binding, a referendum is an important democratic step. It may influence turn out for future elections, but there’s also concerns people will miss the point. Concerns vary depending on the specialty. Whereas security experts worry the tactics will make the Netherlands less secure, journalists are concerned about protecting sources. Electronic encryption advocates like VPN Compare share these sentiments and informs citizens in the region of encryption options.
Whatever the outcome, this political process is interesting for an American to observe. Over here, surveillance laws are wholly outside the common citizen’s realm. From federal agencies to local police departments, a profoundly inconceivable amount of information is being intercepted, stored and analyzed. It’s not unusual for politicians to be unaware of how far the surveillance apparatus has gone. Especially if they’re outside the Senate Intelligence community. No one expects any say when it comes to “national security” operations.
Living in this pseudo-Orwellian state of affairs makes any battle to contain such powers intriguing. How different would it be if America was brave enough to attempt that kind of experiment? Unfortunately, we don’t live in that reality. Instead, we settle for tactics scaring citizens into consenting to these programs before they’re even activated.
For the Dutch, it’s not the simple notion of surveillance that they object to. It’s the idea that anyone, even if they’re entirely law-abiding, can become a target. Privacy no longer exists, and that’s why privacy advocates exceeded the 300,000 signature goal. Would American’s have the same enthusiasm? Or would they take intensified monitoring in stride chanting, “if you’re not doing anything wrong, what’s the big deal?”