THE HAGUE STAFF
A judge has scrapped the Netherlands’ data retention law, saying that while it helps solve crime it also breaches the privacy of telephone and Internet users.
The ruling by a judge in The Hague followed a similar decision in April by the European Union’s top court that wiped out EU data collection legislation it deemed too broad and offering too few privacy safeguards.
The Dutch security and justice ministry said it was considering an appeal.
Under the Dutch law telephone companies were required to store information about all fixed and mobile phone calls for a year. Internet providers had to store information on their clients’ internet use for six months.
The written judgment by Judge GP van Ham conceded that scrapping the data storage “could have far-reaching consequences for investigating and prosecuting crimes” but added that this could not justify the privacy breaches the law entailed.
The judge did not set a deadline for disposing of the data.
Privacy First, one of the organisations that took the government to court, said the ruling “will bring to an end years of massive privacy breaches” in the Netherlands.
The Dutch government said after last year’s European court ruling that it would amend its law. In a written statement the security and justice ministry said it regretted the court’s decision.
“Providers are no longer required to store data for investigations,” the statement said. “The ministry is seriously concerned about the effect this will have on fighting crime.”
Data retention has been a heated issue in light of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the activities of the National Security Agency in the US and its affiliates overseas.
In Australia, a key US intelligence ally, the government is currently considering its own data retention package, which would store certain types of Australians’ phone and web data for two years.
Privacy concerns have been raised and a lengthy political debate has ensued amid confusion within the government itself over how far the laws would extend or what would be retained. But the bill is now closer to passing with the support of a parliamentary committee involving both major parties.
The government in Canberra has agreed to hold a separate hearing into the issues of law enforcement agencies access to journalists’ metadata, and news outlets will appear before a parliamentary hearing on 20 March.