The Dutch Constitution was written in 1815, establishing the constitutional monarchy, then amended in 1848 to establish a parliamentary monarchy. In 1983, the constitution was almost entirely rewritten, incorporating 21 articles of fundamental human rights among many other changes. The current 2005 charter (English or Dutch) is surprisingly compact and efficient: there is no preamble stating principal or intent. In typical Dutch style, it just plunges into the practicality of governance.
Unlike the US constitution, the Dutch charter carries an explicit privacy provision in Article 10: “Everyone shall have the right to respect for his privacy…(Parliament will establish) rules to protect privacy (and) rules concerning the rights of persons to be informed of data recorded concerning them, and of their use, and to have such data corrected.” It’s enlightened and far-reaching for our post 9/11 electronic age, and, walking through the Wyck, I wondered how it worked in practice.
As in the US and UK, the Dutch make extensive use of CCTV cameras to monitor public spaces. A typical installation contains several cameras and microphones, along with transmitters and protective shields and spikes to keep people from climbing the poles.
Placement of cameras must be authorized by the municipal council (gemeenteraad), and are operated under control of the mayor assisted by the police. Surveillance is authorized only for a specific purpose to prevent defined crimes or behaviors, and are approved only after less intrusive measures have been considered. Citizens can make a complaint about unsuitable surveillance to the local council and, by civil writ, to a court.
It’s an interesting effort to strike a balance between privacy and security, and explains the presence of notification signs along the streets (but, curiously, not near the cameras). For more information, the best summary is at Privacy International.
“Since 2004, the use of covert video surveillance in public places requires notice. The Hidden Camera Surveillance Act 2003 (Heimelijk Cameratoezicht) makes it unlawful to use hidden cameras in public places without notification. The use of hidden cameras in the workplace remains lawful if there is a suspicion of criminal behavior and if workers are notified of the likelihood of video surveillance. Journalists can still use hidden cameras for their work. In April 2005, the House of Representatives passed the Camera Surveillance Act, which enables the retention of images up to four weeks and also facilitates the use of cameras for law enforcement purposes, whereas before the main purpose of camera surveillance was keeping public order.”