SoftGiant Sleepwet Referendum Blog

The dragnet law, all you need to know.

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Since the broadcast of ‘Zondag met Lubach’ of Sunday, 1 October, the controversial Dragnet Law has become a hotly debated topic. As with every political decision that has those in favour of it and those against it, facts and opinions are used interchangeably in this discussion.
We put the facts with regard to the Dragnet Law and the referendum in order and let both those in favour of and those against the new law have their word.

Dragnet Law, dragnet, WIV?

De sleepwet is niet de officiële naam van de nieuwe wet op inlichten- en veiligheidsdiensten.
Maar de reden dat de ‘WIV” zo wordt genoemd is omdat, nadat deze wet is ingegaan, online communicatie rondom een verdacht persoon massaal mag worden afgeluisterd.
Dat betekent dat er een enorme hoeveelheid data wordt verzameld, een soort “sleepnet” dus.

Dragnet Law is not the official name of the new Law on intelligence and security services (Wet op de inlichtingen- en veiligheidsdiensten). The reason why the “WIV” is called that is because after it comes into force, online communication around a suspected person may be wiretapped on a large scale. This means that an enormous amount of data will be collected, thus a sort of “dragnet”.

The facts regarding the Dragnet Law in a list:

  • The Law on intelligence and security services (WIV) makes it possible to retain for three years all data that is being collected. To compare: German intelligence services may store this type of data for 90 days, British intelligence services may store this type of date for six months.
  • The WIV takes effect on 1 January, 2018.
  • The WIV does not mention the word ‘dragnet’ or ‘Dragnet Law’. The official term is: ‘investigation assignment focused on interception, recording and wiretapping’.
  • The WIV makes it possible for security services to wiretap all data traffic via cables. This was allowed only in a targeted way until now.
  • The WIV only allows the use of extreme wiretapping methods if the individuals concerned pose a danger to national security according to the AIVD.
  • If it is clear that information has been collected that is not related to the suspected person or persons, this must be immediately deleted.
  • Data that is ‘inextricably connected’ to the suspected person may be stored for the full 3 years. How this ‘inextricably’ is defined is not presented in the Law. Can all information from a residential neighbourhood be stored simply because the suspect is located there?
  • Secret services may at the moment wiretap also internet connections. This, however, may only be targeted at one person.
  • All devices connected to the internet can and may be hacked, according to the new WIV. So, telephones, computers, laptops, tablets, even smart TVs can be used to collect data. But also other smart devices can be wiretapped. Think about smartwatches, smart fridges, or even a thermostat.
  • The collected data may be shared with foreign security services. Also if this has not been analysed yet. This, however, must be approved by the minister and a review committee of former judges.

Why is the new ‘Dragnet Legislation’ necessary

The law appears to be controversial but it has of course not come out of nowhere. There is a reason why the government and the security services need more powers. The current WIV dates back to 2001. A time before WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. The AIVD maintains that eventual threats can be dealt with in a more efficient way with the new Dragnet Law. One of the reasons for the update of the law is also the protection against foreign hacking.

Application of the new law

Governance Of Intelligence and Security Services professor Paul Abels of the University of Leiden worked at AIVD for years. According to him, the new law is not so grim as described in the media. The AIVD will always focus on persons who are already strongly suspected of posing a security danger. The idea that employees of the secret service will browse through private messages of random citizens just for fun is naturally far from reality. The AIVD could, however, try a bit more to become more open about its true intentions. According to Abels, more explanations can be given about what AIVD is working on. “We live in an open society.”

‘Critical infrastructure’

There is one more reason why the AIVD needs the new law. In order to be ready to prevent future cyberattacks on ‘critical infrastructure’ such as energy and water suppliers, a digital defense system must be introduced. Such a system is only possible in the AIVD (or another security service) is in a position to scan the whole Dutch internet.

Those against the new dragnet legislation

There are many opposed to the dragnet method. One of the frequently mentioned arguments is that much information does not necessarily mean that also good information will be gained. Too much data can sometimes even be counterproductive for the efficiency of an investigation. Think, for example, that after every attack, it is mentioned somewhere that the perpetrator or perpetrators had already been known to the intelligence services.

Ambiguity

The many ambiguous formulations in the law also give those opposed much reason for resistance. It is not, for example, clearly mentioned what kinds of devices may be ‘hacked’ by the government. Who knows how fast technological developments will be; in 5 years, your chair may be connected to the internet to keep track of how long you sit…

Privacy concerns

There are multiple civil rights organisations that are strongly opposed to the Dragnet Law. Amnesty International, Free Press Unlimited, the Dutch Union of Journalists, Bits of Freedom, but also many widely read blogs and political parties have distanced themselves from the new WIV.
According to Ton Siedsma of Bits of Freedom, a dragnet is created with the new law, with which innocent citizens may be placed at the crosshairs of the government.

Stumbling blocks

It is clear that two points are really resisted by those opposed:
– The fact that so much information may simply be acquired and stored for three years.

–The ambiguous formulations in the law regarding restrictions for the secret services.
Furthermore, many of those opposed are afraid of the implications in the future. The law may be instituted now with the best intentions for the national security but in the bleakest scenarios, a future government can misuse it. And still comply with the law. 1984, anyone?

The Referendum

It is thus not for nothing that an initiative has been started to hold a referendum against the new WIV. More than 400.000 signatures have been collected for this initiative, with 300.000 signatures in total being necessary. On 21 March, 2018 (simultaneously with the municipal elections), the referendum will take place and you have the opportunity to offer your opinion about this law.

Goal of the referendum

What can this referendum achieve? The law is coming. The referendum will only take place after the introduction thereof. Normally, a law about which a consultative referendum has been set up must be suspended. In this case, this cannot be done, because a passage in the new law cancels this regulation. This, according to the lawmaker, is so “due to urgent concern”.
With the right political will, using the referendum results, the House of Representatives can retroactively revoke or modify the law. This, however, is not very possible with the current political landscape; the parties that voted against the Dragnet Law now have only 55 seats among them.
Politicians are, however, obliged to look into this topic again after an eventual “No” of the Dutch people.

Conclusion

It is clear that our government and security services must have the right tools so as to be able to safeguard our national security. With the rapid technological developments, it is necessary for the law to be adjusted every now and again. Those opposed have, however, a couple of good points, certainly when talking about the privacy of innocent citizens and the uncertainty about the misuse of the law in the future by the government itself.
Luckily, we as citizens of the Netherlands can form our own opinion and also express it freely. On 21 March, 2018, the referendum takes place and you have the opportunity to make your opinion heard. If you agree with the government, you only need to vote “for”. The law is already in force since 1 January, 2018

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