Can young activists change how a whole country thinks about a new law? Nina and Luca think they can. Together with a group of friends they campaigned for a national referendum about a new privacy law and collected over 400,000 signatures for a nation-wide petition. #Activism
Posted by European Heroes on Tuesday, September 18, 2018
At the beginning of 2018, a referendum took place in the Netherlands about a new privacy law. How did five students manage to make privacy and surveillance the hottest topic in the country for weeks, and to win a majority of the votes to reject the law? We met with Nina Boelsums and Luca van der Kamp in Amsterdam to find out more about the Sleepwet campaign.
Similar to other European countries, the Netherlands introduced in 2017 a law that granted authorities more intrusive powers into citizens’ privacy. The new law included, among others, bulk interception rights as well as exchange of people’s information with foreign services.
Five students noticed that the general public was largely unaware of the consequences stemming from enacting the aforementioned law. In a short time, the so-called Sleepwet campaign was born. In the end, a narrow majority of Dutch people voted for overturning the law.
“With this law, you are never really sure if someone is watching over your shoulder. And this will lead you to change your behaviour”, says Nina Boelsums.
“We didn’t want to live with the thought that we didn’t do something about this issue, while we could. If we were not the ones to do something, who would be?”, says Luca van der Kamp.
Boelsums says that “in the end, freedom is something that needs to be actively fought for”.
“We are transitioning to a new digital era in which fundamental rights are thrown overboard, and we need to protect them in the digital age”, says Nina Boelsums.
What can each of us do for protecting these rights? These tips can help you get informed and help you raise awareness about the importance of privacy:
- Security in a box: The non-profit Tactical Tech has launched a free site where it shares privacy protection tools and apps for any user concerned about their privacy;
- Subscribe to newsletters or donate to organisations that raise issues about privacy. These include, among others, Privacy International, EDRi, Amnesty International;
- Inform yourself about the current surveillance laws in your country. Across Europe, several laws have been changed after recent terror attacks, sometimes limiting citizens’ privacy in areas that are not related to preventing terrorism;
- Join conferences, such as the Internet Governance Forum, EuroDIG, or any other hackathon or freedom of expression related event, to learn more about this field;
- Demand more protection for your privacy at your workplace or school, and from your elected representatives at a national level. Talk with friends and relatives about privacy;
- Share information about surveillance and privacy, and check out previous articles on this page about: starting a petition, starting a local action group or how to protest.