As Techdirt has noted, the UK’s Investigatory Powers Act, better known as the Snooper’s Charter, has been dubbed “the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy.” It may be the worst, but it’s not an isolated case. Governments around the world are bringing in laws that grant them powers to spy on innocent citizens using “bulk collection” of information — mass surveillance, in other words. As the Dutch site Bits of Freedom reports, the latest country to join the super-snooper club is the Netherlands, where the lower house has just passed the bill for the new Intelligence and Security Services Act:
The controversial new law will allow intelligence services to systematically conduct mass surveillance of the internet. The current legal framework allows security agencies to collect data in a targeted fashion. The new law will significantly broaden the agencies’ powers to include bulk data collection. This development clears the way for the interception of the communication of innocent citizens.
Another worrying trend is for spies around the world to pass on information they have gathered to intelligence services in other countries. The Dutch law is particularly bad in this respect, for the following reason:
Under the passed bill, Dutch security agencies may also share collected data without having analyzed it first. But when we hand over data to foreign governments without performing some form of data analysis prior to the exchange, we run the risk of not knowing what potentially sensitive information falls into foreign hands, and the consequences that might have for citizens.
The Bits of Freedom post also notes that much in the proposed law has yet to be defined, which is hardly a happy state of affairs. That includes limitations on the powers and how oversight will be carried out. However, more positively, among the revisions made to the bill when it was put out for public consultation in 2015 are some important improvements. Here’s what happens next:
It’s now the Senate’s turn to review the bill. A bill that, in all likelihood, will not meet the minimum safeguards dictated by European law. If the parliamentary groups in the upper house abide by those in the lower house, the bill will be cleared with a comfortable majority.
The mention of the safeguards of European law is significant. As we reported in December, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) confirmed that general and indiscriminate data retention is illegal in the EU. Assuming the Dutch law is passed as expected, a legal challenge at the CJEU could follow, and would seem to stand a good chance of getting the law struck down in its present form.