Dutch person here with a little insight what's to come for you guys. Some information about our tiny little country (in Wester Europe, very pro-US) with just 17 million people.
Our government listens in on more calls every year than in the whole of the US combined. All our telecommunications providers are forced to have the capability to intercept all traffic (phone and internet). Encrypted data must be stored for an unlimited time to facilitate possible decryption in the future. Our 'Team Digital Expertise' developed software that profiles social networks on which a suspect operates to use it in order to gather crime-related information.
Our police buys TomTom software-data to see when and where they can get the maximum amount of money if they photograph speeding drivers. (Safety is not their first concern, money is). Local and national police now use drones. The army is training how to spy on it's own civilians.
Our 'Camera Surveillance Act' allows images to be retained for up to four weeks and also facilitates the use of cameras for law enforcement purposes, whereas before the main purpose of camera surveillance was keeping public order. They're working on a pay-per-mile car tax system but activating it stopped when it turned out they were collecting more (personal) data than was technically needed to run the system and using the data for purposes other than those for which was collected. Every important road is viewed by camera's with license-plate scanning software. You can travel by public transport but a special card with chip and login/logout is required. You can purchase one without your name and address but you can only add money to it using your bank-account. The system tracks all travelers' movements (departure and end points for each leg of every journey), in most cases combined with the traveler's identity. It retains the data for seven years.
Our Dutch passport contains both fingerprints, facial recognition and RIFD. Every large city center is equipped with camera's with powerful microphones. Our Minister of the Interior announced plans to also store the biometric data in a central database. Dutch hotels are breaking data protection laws by photocopying guests' passports and identification cards because they are required by our government to do so.
The 'Electronic child file' records a child's development and environmental indicators from birth. Teachers are forced to build a profile of every child in their class along with a description of his/her family's situation. It received local media coverage when it turned out doctors are even recording when a child starts getting pubic hair. The government is also actively building a electronic patient file, containing all medical details of every person. Because of the workload they have asked insurance companies to help building this. (That got a lot of people's attention).
Fellow Dutchman here, and I couldn't agree more. I actually helped building the electronic patient file in two major hospitals, and I can't tell you enough about the massive clusterfuck that is. The government requires you to finish it before a certain date, only they provide you with the exact requirements after that date. Basic security measures like encrypting data? No way!
To me, America is still the land of the slightly more free and little more brave!
Thank you for the reply. can't believe I forgot all about Germany! I sometimes joke we would have been better off (privacy-wise and financially) if we would have become a federal state of Germany in the '50s. Our Gilder was already linked to the German Mark and you are our largest trade partner. We seem to have the same financial 'hard money' line as well. I visit Germany a lot and am always amazed by the hospitality.
American here, have only visited NL and DE for a few weeks, never lived there.
It was also my perception that the Dutch had a live-and-let-live toleration, that seems like the opposite of the monitoring regime described in the comment. (I'm not really referring to marijuana, I'm speaking more generally.) To this naive outsider, who admittedly has something of a crush on Amsterdam, that level of monitoring is puzzling.
But maybe all those bike roads and dikes point to another aspect of the culture -- a little too well-supervised and well-engineered.
Well to be honest, in retrospect the present Germans are lucky as compared to other countries that they already are educated either first, or second hand about the issue of government knowing everything. Another point could be made is that thank god it happened during the low tech era and not today because a Hitler-esque figure armed with a German equivalent of Google would positively fuck up the entire world with even better efficiency.
In this context it sounds a little scary either way(don't the local police have access to local government records so same difference.) It could be quite innocuous, like being registered to vote, and needing to know in which local elections you can participate.
With right-extremist nutters like Wilders, economical decline, and the singling-out of a certain demographic (muslims), which happens internationally, it's more likely than you think. Yellow stars embroidened on coats have been replaced with profiles in large databases containing a billion times more profiling data though, instead of a simple yellow-starred label.
Agreed. Imagine voting for you own major, sheriff, congressman and president! (This is no joke people, we can't. They're appointed from within their own ranks. We can vote for a specific party-leader and hope they win. But the always end up creating a coalition with 2 or 33 other party's and needing to compromise).
You think the US two party, first-past-the-post system is better?!
Why would normal citizens vote for the president? There are only two possible outcomes of that: a president gets selected who basically blocks what the rest of the government wants (this is how it works in the US and exactly what the FF wanted) or the people pick a president who would work with the government but would have been picked with your current system.
"Yes its is it makes for a stronger government and reduces the influenced of extremists holding the country to ransom."
The problem is that there is no real choice here; you have a right-wing party and a slightly more right-wing party, and then a bunch of powerless minor parties. Nobody is holding the country ransom because there is no real disagreement. Occasionally the parties clash over the budget (as they did recently), but on the whole the country has generally followed the same path for decades now.
So you're upset because you're losing nuclear power (admittedly, that's a mistake)? You could be having indefinite detention, constant wars on ideals (as opposed to tangible entities), a failing school system, a system where the balance is tipped so far in favor of corporations (as opposed to labor) that it's practically a vertical line, and on and on but you're concerned about having less efficient power? The mind boggles.
>and having access to affordable stable power is quite an important thing in having a nice society to live in
Not nearly as important as avoiding having a bunch of lunatic extremists as two-party systems seem to devolve to.
I find the European governments of many parties all having a say in the government the best and closest to actual representation. I find the idea that the entirety of opinion in the whole US, all 350 million citizens, can be resolved to either Red or Blue absolutely idiotic.
Of course that doesn't happen, the parties both span the whole political spectrum, including complete overlap. I.e. the party name can be meaningless. It also means you can't be sure where a politician stands by his party alone. Contrast this with a european government where you stand with your party or you switch party. It's much easier to work out where someone stands.
>you are of course a union member
I certainly would be in a union but firms have been really good at keeping unionization out of IT entirely. But even better would be a government who recognized the power imbalance between corporations and labor and took steps to make things better on their own.
He's not the guy his constituents want. He is the guy 51.5% of his constituents want.
Giving the people what a majority of those people want is a very dangerous thing to do. Part of the theory being having constitutions is to limit the tyranny of the majority, though it is plain to see that in Joe Arpaio's case the limitations are not sufficient. What 51% of voters in Maricopa County apparently want is unacceptable.
Oh, that guy. He's even know over here. (Journalists like to pick out the most 'interesting' persons). That guy scares me. You also vote for judges? Would it help if there was a maximum someone could get voted for? Like with your president?
In New York, most judges are elected to 14 year terms. There are a few exceptions, but mostly for traffic courts or administrative judges.
They do run in partisan elections, but they are limited with regard to claims they can make about opponents, and a non-partisan commission evaluates the overall qualifications of each judge.
Are there issues with politicalization? Absolutely. But don't make the assumption that election == politics, and appointment != politics. An elected judge at least nominally is accountable to the people. The examples where this system doesn't work well is usually when machine politics corrupt the process of electing judges. If the judge was appointed, chances are they would be accountable to nobody at all.
It's ideal for most judges to be elected to life terms. That limits concerns about them needing to serve the politics of the minute to get re-elected. They can take principled stands without worrying about being thrown out. The Supreme Court has routine stood up to both Congress and the President, and they can only do that because they can't be removed (except under extraordinary circumstances of corruption).
It's a state issue. Some states have appointed, for life judges and others use voting. Personally I think voted-judges are wrong for a lot of reasons but particularly because it makes judges political beings which they really ought not to be.
One example doesn't make a case. I'd argue that the system of electing sheriffs has overall worked tremendously well in the US. The alternative is appointment by insiders or a board, both of which are easily susceptible to corruption, and that can make it difficult to impossible to correct said corruption when it happens.
Dane here. Todays headline in Danish news is that the government just learned that a database containing ID numbers of all people with a driver's license was hacked last year and an unknown amount of information may be leaked. The Danish ID numbers can be used to get just about any information on Danes, whether it's tax related, education, health, criminal records, addresses, bank accounts etc.
Holy cr*p. That's my nightmare as well. The Public transport system has been hacked many times. What is the Electronic Patient, Electronic Passport or Tax system gets hacked? Anyone could take all your information and you're screwed. I think anyone owning any system whatsoever should be FORCED to go public if there system gets hacked. (Especially banks!)
Well at least it's still possible to buy a prepaid SIM card with cash which includes data for ridiculously cheap. And travel in towns on bikes with huge sunglasses and a hat. And buy tickets for traveling between cities with cash.
I don't really care that they gather the OVkaart data (they can see that I go to work and back when the weather sucks, so what). What makes me steaming with anger is that they don't seem to be using it to IMPROVE the network. People are actually getting off the metro to get on a bus. Have the bus wait for those people, dammit! What's the use of data collection if it's not used?
My gripe too. When I forget to 'check out' in Amsterdam when transferring from metro to train I get fined, even though I did in fact 'check in' for the train. It's so mindnumbingly stupid to have the two check-in/out poles standing next to each other.
> You can purchase one without your name and address but you can only add money to it using your bank-account. The system tracks all travelers' movements (departure and end points for each leg of every journey), in most cases combined with the traveler's identity. It retains the data for seven years
Not to discredit your whole post but is this really the case. You can buy those 1 hour/24 hour/48 hour passes for cash. With a 1 hour one you aren't exactly required to check out if you don't use it again (on tram at least).
You're right, you can buy the one-time cards and they won't be able to track you. But for regular travellers like myself those one-time cards are much more expensive than the ones linked to your bank account. Not to mention the hassle of having to buy a new card every day...
That hassle can in principle be totally mitigated. When you buy an OV-Chipkaart from a service desk (like an NS desk at a train station), they will not only charge you the 15€ (or whatever) fee, but they will also ask you how much you want to use to load the card. You can pay cash at such a desk.
You could probably also use those desks to reload the OV-Chipkaart with cash, but I've never tried that.
Yes and no. VPS' providers under Europeaian juridistiction will have to collect and store all the information of their customers (emails, telephone calls) but if you're an American customer to a Europian VPS provider and you host an email-server on that VPS, you aren't forced to save that data for use by the europeian countries.
Funny that this thread has become about the Netherlands.
I moved to Amsterdam from Seattle last November, and have to say that I feel far less vulnerable here, information-wise. Perhaps if I compared the policies and behaviors of only the national governments, I would remember the US as the land of the free, but I prefer to take all levels of government and corporate power into account.
How can you "feel" information vulnerability? That's kind of a ridiculous concept. Everything you type into your computer could literally be broadcast onto a massive LED screen in a public square on the other side of the planet and you would never "feel" a thing.
True. When I was in the US I was weary to approach a police officer. To me they looked rather edgy. A 'don't f*ck with me attitude'. Our police are pussy's compared to yours! My travel agency even warned me for the police in the poorer parts of Missisipy. As a non-american I could not fully understand the English some people over there spoke. (Alabama and in The deep south). Oddly enough people over there thought I was from NY or something when I talked to them.
LOL, how are those rose-colored glasses working out for you? Of course you'd feel more free, everything that threatens your freedom is swept under the rug here! 'Massive uproar' (read: more than 3 newspaper articles) about something (like EPD)? Just shelve it and try again next year! Never takes more than 2 or 3 tries! Do you realize how extensive the data logging (phone and internet records, plus phone taps) is here? And while we may not have the technology just yet to do really impressive data mining, in a few years time we will (or rather, 'they' will) and there will be nothing left that is private, especially when (in 10 years time) cash payments will be relegated to only buying things costing as much as a packet of gum. Think that's crazy? Sure, that's what people said of me when I said the same thing about data mining debit card payments 10 years ago - and look what was in the news just two weeks ago! The biggest Dutch processor of electronic payments will start selling that data to BigCo for marketing purposes! Sure it's been called off for now, but see my first sentence; next year, they'll be a lot more careful about not making any noise about it when they introduce it.
even without considering that you charge an anonymous card with your bank account, if you keep only one, it's quite easy to follow patterns still. Especially if they have already targeted a person and they have additional information, there are not so many people that check in X and check out Y on days W,Z.. and so on. The more additional info you have, the narrower the search space.
This isn't even true. At the railway ticket machines you can buy an anonymous card with just coins. Yes, it does cost 7.50 euro, and it does let you charge in 1 euro increments.
Yes, the data is collected, but no, they are not allowed to use it on a case by case basis, only aggregated and only individual trips. Data has been thrown away with lawyers and auditors present to watch.
People who argue very strongly against government intrusion often seem to ignore the distinction between private and public spaces. I have no problem with any amount of recording equipment in public spaces. Anywhere that a policeman could stand and watch; I see a camera as an efficient aid. I won't let a policeman into my house unless they have a warrant - and not because I have anything to hide, but because upholding the principle is important.
Then surely those cameras should be available to the public as well. If anywhere a policeman can stand also counts as anywhere anyone can stand, and if it's a public space as you say, then the people have just as much right to see what's going on as the police. Public is public, right?
Is that not already the case with, for instance, police dash cams? Can't those be requested via the FOIA? (Except when the department decides the footage is "missing"/"corrupted"/"accidentally deleted"/etc., of course)
There is a distinction between public and private places, but there are also grades of privacy. If I am in my own home, I expect that no one will be watching me. If I am on a podium in front of a crowd, I expect that everyone will be watching me. If I am walking in a public area, I expect that only people who know me will notice me. It is that last expectation that omnipresent cameras shatter.
The difference between a person and a camera is that people get tired, miss things, have to eat, and cost a lot more money to maintain. For this reason, people are deployed only where necessary, while cameras can be deployed much more widely. It is the weighing of cost associated with sending a person that used to protect privacy in public places, but with electronic surveillance we lose that cost consideration as a check against surveillance.
You're trying to prove a point by giving a single example. Those pictures on that website are expensive houses in Amsterdam where people like to show off their wealth in a "non-intrusive" way. Once you get into sub-urbal and rural areas, you won't find a house without curtains. At least in the whole 10 blocks around me, I haven't seen a single house without blinds or curtains.
Thank you. This is an argument that I've made after much frustration and many other points. It never occurred to me to make it the center of my argument. You have no idea how glad I am to have seen this.
To which you respond, "Then why do you have your curtains drawn?" Most people parrot the "I have nothing to hide" line without realizing that they actually do want some measure of privacy.
You can also put it in terms of hackers: maybe they have nothing to hide from the government, but what about from hackers? People seem to be more concerned about that sort of thing. The same technologies that would thwart the NSA also happen to be good at thwarting other attackers.
Second, they get in the news once, minor uproar (particularly on the internet), then... nothing. Maybe in cases like the The Pirate Bay blockade, which gets through to certain news sites from time to time whenever they get a new domain name or host, where they remind the audience that for that single web page, ISP's have been made to censor it by court order (and need to update their blocked domain names / IP addresses)
Mostly political power. Terrorism/military/police arguments is the short term answer, but the reason so much effort is put in is because politically, surveillance is a very valuable. The two primary uses of raw surveillance data (to my knowledge) is to trade it with other nations, and to give political leaders information about their citizens in order to stay in power.
For trading, he who has most data can get most in exchange for it. Sometimes, it's details about on-going deals between companies, where trading information might mean receiving information so one's national companies get a edge over foreign ones. Diplomats, airplane manufacturers, car manufacturers, oil companies are historical beneficiaries of information acquired by the NSA.
But leaders of nations also want information about their citizens. They need to identify other politically important people, influential groups, or where campaign money should (or not) be invested so that they get elected next election. With surveillance data, you can direct police forces to crack down on people or groups who would otherwise have an effect on election day.
Well, about the OVkart. I assume you were writing about this one. I visited Amsterdam and bought one with cash. Then I loaded it at Zuid also paying with cash. No paper trail. And I only did that because it was nearly impossible to pay with my Visa Electron. But that's another issue.
btw did you ever notice that the NRC always uses the diminuitive ("vliegtuigjes", "little planes") when referring to drones? Of course, in this case it somewhat makes sense, because they are in fact tiny planes.
But they use the word not just for these surveillance drones, but also for referring to attack drones firing missiles and laying waste to villages in war zones. I'm not sure what to make of it, whether it's a bias, in general I consider NRC to be a quality paper. It's just such a very odd way to phrase it, and they're being very consistent about it. But imagine writing about abandoned "landmijntjes", or any other type of weapon/killing machine, in the diminuitive.
Not to condone such an intrusive government but I've read that a lot of personal info is public record but with the result of, for example, being able to track diseases with great precision in families over decades.
I forget whereI read it but there is more to it than that but the gist of it is the existence of such a massive amount of data results in amazing discoveries.
Regarding the public transport chipcard: you _can_ recharge them with cash. Using the machines of the railways, you can only use coins, unfortunately. But at least the machines of Amsterdam local transport accept bank notes.