The date has been set. On March 21, 2018, at the same time as the local elections, the Dutch have the chance to voice their opinion on the Intelligence Bill that comes in effect on January 1, 2018. But whether you are going to vote in this referendum or not, it will not matter.

The question they will ask is simple: “Are you for or against the Intelligence Bill 2017?” Well, that is the wrong question!
Why? Well, of course people want to have a proper law that helps the government to sniff out any potential terrorist activity. The old one was from 2002, when the internet was still a small part of the world, and most people used a landline to call a friend, instead of using WhatsApp voice on their cell phone.

So it is definitely good that that law will be updated to accommodate new, mobile, IP based technologies. No one would dispute that, right? But it is what’s in it that makes the new Bill problematic, to say the least. Especially the part where the intelligence services can collect vast amounts of data from you, even if you are not the target of an investigation, but a neighbour (or a friend of an in-law of your neighbour) is. And they can hold on to that data.

What about the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise?

The government says it will still uphold this principle, but to me it doesn’t feel like it. Even though ‘I have nothing to hide’, I still want my privacy secured and not always have to think about what I am doing because a neighbour might be investigated somewhere down the line. Besides, the untargeted collection of data will mean a lot of work for investigators to go through it all. Doesn’t that slow down an investigation? There are a lot of smart technologies that can get better results with a targeted search.

The government should explain better what the Bill means and what they can do with your data. Who will oversee the intelligence services, for instance? How do they intend to analyse all the data? What guarantees we will get, that the collected data isn’t used against us at random? And what about the security of the data storage? Do we know anything about that?

We should be allowed to ask the government all these questions and give our opinion on those matters. The question in this referendum is just too general!