Dutch government gives itself the right to break into your computer and destroy it

Ot from Bits of Freedom sez, "On 15 October, the Dutch ministry of Justice and Security proposed powers for the police to break into computers, install spyware, search computers and destroy data. These powers would extend to computers located outside the Netherlands. Dutch digital rights movement Bits of Freedom warns for the unacceptable risks to cybersecurity and calls on other countries to strongly oppose the proposal."

Three new powers: spy, search and destroy

The proposal (Dutch, PDF) would grant powers to the Dutch police to break into computers, including mobile phones, via the internet in order to:

  • * install spyware, allowing the police to overtake the computer;
  • * search data on the computer, including data on computers located in other countries; and
  • * destroy data on the computer, including data on computers located in other countries.

If the location of the computer cannot be determined, for example in the case of Tor-hidden services, the police is not required to submit a request for legal assistance to another country before breaking in. Under the current text, it is uncertain whether a legal assistance request is required, or merely warranted, if the location of the computer is known. The exercise of these powers requires a warrant from a Dutch court.

Dutch proposal to search and destroy foreign computers (Thanks, Ot!)


  1. A very very simple word… dafuq? This doesn’t even make the remotest lick of sense in any rational or sane mind. 

  2. An apathetic majority lets a few activists fight for their rights to access the greatest source of accumulated knowledge the world has ever known while they watch The Voice and Dancing With The Stars. Fuck. Our rights to a free and open internet are slowly slipping away and sometimes I feel like the people that give a shit about it are on an island.

    1. We are.  This island is called, “Go Ahead and Try It On Us, Asswipes” as we roll up our sleeves and swivel back to our monitors.

  3. “* destroy data on the computer, including data on computers located in other countries.”

    Isn’t when country A imposes it’s laws on the citizens of country B the definition of war? 

    So, how does one stop a plutarchy?

    1. In the last decade the United States kidnapped over 100 people from EU countries and shipped elsewhere for torture and indefinite detention without trial.  That’s with *allied* countries. 

      The way you stop that is to demonstrate that turnabout is fair play.  Have the long arm of EU law reach into the US, whether erasing computers or nabbing and exfiltrating a few wanted suspects off US streets.  (But do give them proper treatment and trials.)

      Publicise that you’ve done so.  When the inevitable uproar happens, remind people that you’re operating by US practices, and that you’d be happy to agree with the US to abide by each other’s laws and jurisdiction instead.

    1. Because is a warrant in a foreign country. A country that doesn’t even notify you about their de facto power over you. A country that may have different laws than your country.

      What can possibly go wrong?

      1. You are free to interpret Ot’s misunderstanding of a proposed law as a de facto power over your computer if you wish, but don’t expect anyone who has actually read and understood the proposal to take you seriously.

  4. The title is very misleading. This is only a proposal, made by someone who is known for his bold ideas about how to catch and treat criminals.

  5. “The exercise of these powers requires a warrant from a Dutch court.”

    Guys, calm down. This is exactly the kind of law you WANT.

    Surprising as it may be, sometimes law enforcement officials need to break into homes or conduct surveillance in order to do their duties. The difference between how this is done in democracies and how it is done in police states is pretty simple: judicial oversight. Police need to go to a judge, convince them that their intrusion is justified, and get a warrant. That’s part of the system of checks and balances that allow police to do their jobs without the temptation of becoming overzealous thugs. 

    In Canada we just had a lot of very bad digital laws come in with Bill C-11, and Bill C-30 is hovering around, which would allow law enforcement to spy on the public WITHOUT A WARRANT. I think about that and it makes me feel that Canadians were stupid to reject the Liberals’ Lawful Access Proposal years earlier, which on hindsight was actually pretty reasonable

    My suggestion to Dutch people? Support this bill. Get it passed. Because if you don’t, conservative elements in law enforcement and government are eventually going to push through a law that DOESN’T require judicial oversight. And then police really will be able to spy on whomever they like. 

    1. Or they’ll just sweep the existing laws under the rug when they get the chance, like what happened in the USA with the Patriot Act and re-authorization.

      1. There’s always that risk, especially in a country with a huge amount of political apathy (also like the USA! Funny that…)

        The point is that law enforcement having a legal framework to perform digital search and surveillance is not something that is avoidable, it’s more a matter of having well-written or poorly-written legislation. With legislation in place that ensures due process, authoritarian agitators on politics and law enforcement have less of an argument for more draconian legislation like the Patriot Act.

        I would say that opposing legislation like this on the grounds that it will restrict some freedoms (which all laws invariably do) is kind of just anarchist. For years, I’ve tended to take my cues from Cory when it comes to online civil liberties. But now I’m curious: Cory, do you support any kind of reasonable search and surveil laws when it comes to the internet, or are you a more of an internet anarchist?

    2. What checks and balances, there aren’t any. A Dutch judge can authorize the surveillance or destruction of a computer in, say, Canada, and you consider that something you want?

    3. Let’s do a thought experiment here. I’m going to make a slight change to the law. Regardless of the change I’m about to make, this law will scrupulously be followed to the letter, absolutely no deviations.

      Replace all instances of “Dutch” with “Iranian”. Or  “Taliban”. Or “MPAA”. Or “Soviet Russia”.

      Still think it’s a good law? If so, why?

  6. As far as I know, best practices in computer forensics take great care to ensure preservation of data, saving full disk images and working on them read-only, etc.

    If law enforcement is allowed to remotely install spyware or destroy data, how is that different from tampering with evidence ? or should a personal computer no longer be considered a reliable source of evidence ?

  7. This breaks long-held Dutch protocol that a government on the way out (between elections after a so called broken coalition and the formation of a new government) does not make controversial policy.

  8. “…destroy data on the computer, including data on computers located in other countries.”

    I’m sorry?! This is completely unacceptable.

  9. State-funded organizations in many countries are already messing with computers in other countries, with or without warrants, and with or without laws permitting it. They’re not just doing it to fight what those nations happen to consider crimes, but also for corporate espionage.

    This proposal is just the Netherlands trying to be more correct than others while missing the point of doing the right thing by an AU. Then again maybe that’s just practical realism.

    Should any country have laws granting it power over objects owned by people who aren’t citizens of that country? Of course not. But the net is an anarchy, and in anarchies laws are irrelevant. The only people to who this law is going to mean a disadvantage that doesn’t exist yet are those who can be prosecuted in the Netherlands. And it will validate what bigger and more powerful countries are already doing anyway, but I can’t imagine “the Dutch seem to think it’s OK” being a convincing argument in any debate.

    Secure your computers. There are far worse and far more likely things than Dutch police that will do unwanted things to your data, and they don’t give a damn about anyones laws.

    Disclaimer: I’m from the Netherlands.

  10. This sounds like the Netherlands is attempting to pick a fight with people who are better equipped to fuck them up.

    I wonder how long it’ll be before Dutch  .gov sites are hacked to shit?

  11. I think some of the motivation for this proposal came from a recent case where Dutch police identified a criminal botnet which was active in the Netherlands, with the herder in another country.

    Apparently, they were capable of accessing the controller and  shutting down the botnet (for how long is anyone’s guess), but stringent Dutch laws prevented them from doing so.

    Ostensibly, this proposal would have allowed them to take action at the time. Of course, the question is always how such powers would be used on the rest of us.

  12. What I noticed is that apparently they don’t need to ask for permission from the other country IF THEY CAN’T LOCATE THE COMPUTER.

    If they need an “other country warrant” if they know the country, that’s fine. If they don’t need a warrant if the computer is actively involved in lawbreaking IN THE NETHERLANDS that’s fine too.

    It’s the “not bothering to get a warrant” when neither the computer nor its actions are within their jurisdiction that is a problem.

  13. There’s no intrinsic logic in trusting judges more than agents or cops. Because someone that some foreign government calls a “judge” says it’s okay, I should feel honored to have my data f**ked with?

    1. It’s the same judge that sends someone to jail after they’ve been proven guilty of murder, rape, theft, and so on. You’d have a judge do that but not decide wether or not the proof collected thus far warrants an escalation of the investigation? 

    2. There’s no intrinsic logic in trusting judges more than agents or cops.

      Other than the fact that one is trained to understand the law and the other isn’t. Why not let the orderly take out your appendix? They’re both in the medical field.

  14. THIS JUST IN: Did you know that clandestine laws allow police to actually BREAK INTO a home and search it? It’s true! These laws are sanctioned by our supposedly-democratic gub-er-mint. Even now, police may be listening to your conversations remotely or tapping your phones!!! All they need to is obtain some trivial piece of paper called a “WARRANT” from some “judge” person (whom I can only presume is a crotchety, unforgiving old man in a black robe and a curly white wig). 

    Clearly, we are already living in a police state. 

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