The police regularly requests personal data from demonstrators, such as their address, citizen service number and date of birth. In addition, the police collect data from parents and children of activists. This is evident from 67 files of demonstrators, which research platform Investico viewed in collaboration with De Groene Amsterdammer and Trouw.
The data comes from the Personal Records Database (BRP), a database containing information about every resident of the Netherlands. According to the police, the request is necessary for, among other things, tracing suspects, processing reports, to come into contact with demonstrators or for victim care.
Data from relatives of demonstrators are also requested. According to the police, this happens if those demonstrators were previously guilty of, for example, serious public order disturbances. However, the overviews show that data from relatives of demonstrators who have never been convicted are also retrieved.
Since 2021, every citizen can request an overview of data traffic between the police and the BRP from the municipality. Investico was given access to 67 of these overviews with the cooperation of activists. Ten of the activists involved have never been arrested, but the details of seven of those ten were retrieved dozens of times by the police.
These are mainly activists from the anti-racism and climate movement, including Extinction Rebellion demonstrators Sieger Sloot and Lucas Winnips. But corona protesters and anti-fascists also participated in the study.
The overviews show that the data of some people involved are requested much more often since they participate in protests. Previously, this only happened in the case of a bicycle fine, for example, or if they themselves reported the crime. But after participating in demonstrations, the number of applications skyrocketed. For example, the data of the prominent corona demonstrator Michel Reijinga was viewed more than 1400 times in two years.
According to experts, the ‘data hunger’ of the police is jeopardizing the right to demonstrate. “If you are being watched all the time, you can no longer demonstrate freely,” says Bart Schermer, professor of privacy and cybercrime at Leiden University in Trouw.
Marc Schuilenburg, professor of digital surveillance at Erasmus University, points out that demonstrating is a fundamental right. “That’s why the police have to be restrained.”
Minister Yesilgöz of Justice and Security says in a response that the police “are not trying to make it difficult for people to demonstrate at the front”. She understands that the police request information about people who abuse the right to demonstrate by breaking the law. “But there is no logical explanation for requesting data from family members, because the police actually have nothing to do with that.” According to her, the data of family members can be a kind of by-catch.