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Dutch interception secrecy

26 February, 2003

The quantity of police interceptions of telecommunication in the Netherlands is higher than anywhere else in the world, according to the few available official statistics. Government however, tries to maintain secrecy about the exact numbers and the technical specifications of the equipment.

Last week, a Freedom-of-Information request by EDRi-member Bits of Freedom for statistics covering the nineties was turned down by government because of 'the lack of available statistics'. The ministry of Justice could not explain why there seem to be no statistics for most years.

The few official publications show an explosive increase of interception numbers in the nineties. According to a 1996 report by the Ministry of Justice's research centre, in 1993 and 1994 respectively 3.619 and 3.284 telephone lines were wiretapped. The researchers concluded that those numbers already were considerably higher than the absolute quantity in the USA and the UK. According to Ministerial answers to Parliament, in 1999 the number of intercepts had increased to an astonishing 10.000 tapped phones by Dutch police (TK 27591, nr. 2). Official reporting by the US Courts and the UK Communications Commissioner show considerably lower numbers over 1999: 1.277 for the USA and 1.933 for the UK.

UK parliamentary inquiry rejects data retention

12 February, 2003

In the UK, a parliamentary inquiry resulted in a firm rejection of governmental plans for general data retention. In one piece of proposed legislation Government expected phone companies, mobile operators and Internet service providers to voluntarily keep logging data for a period of up to 12 months. These data would reveal who has been calling and e-mailing whom, which websites they had visited, and even where people have been with their mobile phones. In their report, the All Party Internet Group (APIG) concludes that the Government had underestimated the costs of the scheme, that billing databases would migrate abroad to escape regulation and that there were few incentives for industry to help the government track technical change. To cap all this, the scheme appeared to be in breach of Human Rights legislation and despite a year of effort by the Home Office, no solution was in sight.

Microsoft Passport does not comply with European privacy rules

12 February, 2003

Microsoft has agreed to change its Passport authentication system, after the publication on 29 January of a very critical review by the united EU privacy commissioners. Besides the Microsoft .NET Passport system, the commissioners, united in the so-called Article 29 Working Party, also examined the Liberty Alliance Project. The review concludes with general guidelines for future on-line authentication systems.

In order to comply with EU privacy rules, Microsoft agreed to substantially modify the Passport system, "involving in particular a radical change of the information flow".

Passport is a system that centralizes authentication and information sharing for users on the internet. The system stores user information such as addresses, ages, phone and credit card numbers and other personal details in a large central database. With one click, users can transfer their personal information to participating websites.

Rally Members European Parliament against data retention

29 January, 2003

38 Members of the European Parliament from 7 different political groups have united in their resistance against mandatory data retention. Initiated by Marco Cappato, Italian Radical and former Rapporteur on privacy in the electronic communications, last week the MEP's presented a strongly worded recommendation to the European Council. Even though the new European Privacy Directive leaves room for national legislation on data retention, the MEP's reject the current Council-plans for a binding framework Decision.

A questionnaire that was sent out to all member-countries about current practice and wishes concerning mandatory data retention showed all in favour of a harmonised regime, with the sole exception of Germany and Austria, and some

hesitance in the Netherlands, that rather wait for Council harmonisation under

Recommended reading

29 January, 2003

The Human Rights Network in Moscow has just released a very useful online report about online privacy in Russia. According to the introduction 'Fundamental human rights and freedoms - freedom of speech, freedom of information, privacy - are apparently unprotected on the Net. While Russian Internet is growing these rights and freedoms suffer from frequent and widespread invasion.'

Update: United Kingdom

29 January, 2003

On 31 January 2003 consultation in the United Kingdom ends on plans for a national 'Entitlement' card, widely perceived to be an identity card. A six month consultation on the initiative was launched by the Government in July last year. Civil rights groups have demanded to abandon the scheme in the wake of criticisms including invasion of privacy, the risk of abuse of a centralised repository of identity information, cost and an extremely low key consultation process.

Co-ordinated action amongst several UK based groups including, Privacy International, and the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) has led to a surge of responses opposing the scheme. A website allowing the public to contact their elected representative directly has collected more than twice as many responses than the government has received through traditional

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