You’ve probably heard of undermining. This fashion term was introduced around 2005 and after a dizzying advance it has become an integral part of the debate on security and crime.
On the website of the Public Prosecution Service I read that subversive crime is crime that damages social structures or the trust in them. Mixing the underworld and the upper world: money is made in the drug industry, but still has to be laundered. Criminals use all kinds of handy logistical, financial and tax tricks. For example, drug money – poof – turns into real estate, expensive watches or a nice sports car.
It is understandable that the government wants to combat undermining. But critics argue that subversion is a new weapon for those in power to push through everything: more money for crime-fighting, a war on drugs and privacy violations. Undermining is an abstract and unclear term. That is why it is now used as a kind of thousand-things cloth against all kinds of undesirable phenomena.
The allowance affair also started with the intention of countering undermining. With the help of malicious algorithms, the Tax and Customs Administration put mostly poor parents with a non-Dutch background on the blacklist for years. They were suspected in advance, with disastrous consequences.
You hope the government has learned something from its mistakes, but no. Even before the victims have been compensated, there is a bill before the Senate that actually applies for a new allowance affair. You guessed it: the bill aims to combat undermining. This concerns the Data Processing by Joint Processing Organizations Act (WGS). A boring and innocent name for a law that sets up a mass surveillance system.
If the Senate agrees, our most sensitive personal data will be featured in the Black Friday sale. Social Security numbers, residency status, and even your sexual orientation are stored and compared. Then our data may be exchanged by government agencies, but also companies(!) to their heart’s content.
You become the subject of an investigation when there is an ‘overriding interest’. What that includes: no idea. And the parliament cannot exercise any control over that either. That will be decided later by the government and we just have to have faith in that… And to top it off, the personal data of your friends and family can also be involved in this data orgy.
Privacy watchdogs, such as the Dutch Data Protection Authority, are practically begging the Senate to reject the bill. Of course there are also proponents: the usual suspects. The Public Prosecution Service naturally states that in the fight against subversive crime it is necessary to work together better.
The police also consider linking data to be an absolute necessity when investigating financial crimes. And the banking world called it an important law “to catch more crooks.” In short, we shouldn’t worry so much. Couple of privacy issues. You have nothing to hide, do you?
In the fight against undermining, anything has been allowed for years. But the ‘crooks’ who will be found with the new espionage system are probably the weakest of the herd again. Social assistance recipients with expensive groceries in their kitchen cupboards. Certainly not the average, white, heterosexual dual earner. Not the friends of the government, such as multinationals that dodge billions in income tax. Fiscal and financial tricks are suddenly all the rage.
If the police and the Public Prosecution Service are so eager to tackle financial undermining, I advise them to take a look at their own ranks. In the criminal investigation into state lawyer Pels Rijcken – ‘the government partner’ – the top of the Public Prosecution Service whistled back to the public prosecutor, while there may still be all the corpses in the closet.
The Public Prosecution Service could also launch a criminal investigation into the face mask affair, in which 30 million euros in tax money disappeared under – at least – suspicious circumstances in the pockets of Sywert et al. No, the investigations into the face mask affair and Pels Rijcken are outsourced by the Public Prosecution Service to Deloitte: a commercial office hired by the companies themselves. And then hope that the bottom stone comes up.
I can only draw one conclusion. The investigative apparatus is hardly interested in real subversion in which millions of euros are looted. The war against subversion is waged only against its own citizens, using mass surveillance as a weapon. Citizens’ trust in their government is irreparably damaged. And thus the government itself is guilty of the greatest undermining.