According to a Netherlands court ruling, Dutch intelligence agencies can continue using bulk data collected by foreign intelligence agencies (such as the US National Security Agency), even though this type of data collection is illegal for Dutch services.
A coalition of organizations and citizens represented by law firm bureau Brandeis lodged a civil case against the state in November to try to prevent Dutch intelligence services AIVD and MIVD from keeping data that was obtained in ways that would not be permitted by European and Dutch law.
In the Netherlands, the untargeted interception of data, for instance, that occurred under the NSA’s PRISM program, would not be permitted in the Netherlands, where a target must be more clearly defined. Also, European treaties such as the European Convention on Human Rights state that mass data collection programs violate human rights.
In its decision, however, the Hague District Court sided against the coalition, saying that receiving this data does not violate international and national treaties. In its reasoning, it notes that Dutch intelligence agencies should not be barred from cooperating with foreign colleagues on the grounds that they don’t know exactly how the information was obtained.
The court ruled that the mass collection of data isn’t necessarily a privacy violation, however, it might be in individual cases.
In a blog post, bureau Brandeis has noted weakening safeguards when it comes to the exchange of raw data in bulk is more of a concern than when it comes to the exchange of specific information, because it could implicate many innocent people. Many people, for instance, felt violated when it was revealed that the NSA was collecting data on unsuspected citizens.
The coalition is planning on appealing the court’s ruling.
According to ZDNet’s Martin Gijzemijter, the Dutch parliament is also working on legislation to loosen rules on “untargeted interception” to extend their own espionage overreach.