Feb 022011
 February 2, 2011  Posted by  Court, Laws, Non-U.S.

A Dutch reader sent me some disheartening news from his country today.

It appears that a challenge to a law requiring all Dutch citizens provide their fingerprints for passports was rejected by The Hague. The fingerprints are to be maintained in a centralized registry, and privacy advocates have raised concerns about privacy, the security of such records, and whether the requirement violates human rights. They have also raised concerns about misuse of the database for purposes other than passport use.

In its ruling (Dutch), the court found that the Privacy First Foundation did not have standing to represent all Dutch citizens (although 21 individuals were also co-plaintiffs in the action).  As far as the 21 individuals were concerned, the court held that they had other civil court remedies and that they lacked standing for an administrative court review because they had not yet experienced any problem with the new passport system as they had not even applied for the new passport (if I understood the translation correctly).  See CORRECTION under this post.

The court’s decision was reported in Webwereld (Dutch). The Webwereld report indicates a concern that the database – which was to be used only for passports – will become available to prosecutors for other purposes such as criminal investigations.

This is apparently the second time an attempt to get the issues heard in court has failed. The first time was in 2009 when the European Court declined to hear a case brought by Wikimedia. In that case, too, the court did not get to the issues.

Will any Dutch or EU court actually consider the substantive issues here? I hope so.

As reported yesterday, the European Commission is looking into the new passport requirements and system to determine if it violates EU data protection laws.

CORRECTION/UPDATE: Apparently, I translated incorrectly (no great surprise there). According to @djinh, Privacy First and the other plaintiffs brought the case in The Hague’s civil court, but the court ruled that they had to go to adminstrative court where there are cases pending.

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