Privacy Group Asks Dutch Government to Stop Giving Personal Info to Churches

Privacy First, a privacy advocacy organization, tells the Cabinet, "The state must stop providing personal data to churches as soon as possible."

Churches in the Netherlands now automatically receive the personal data of more than five million Dutch people who have at any time been registered with a church. Anyone who moves houses will receive a letter from the church in the neighborhood of the new address - often with payment details attached.

"This situation is undesirable and can no longer be tolerated," says director Vincent Böhre of Privacy First. "The Cabinet wants citizens to keep control over their personal data. In our opinion, this means that individuals must express their explicit consent for sharing their data with ecclesiastical institutions."

In 2016, the entire House of Representatives - with the exception of the Christian parties - supported a motion by D66 (social-liberals) to not automatically share personal data with churches. Former Home Affairs Minister Plasterk decided to arrange that by the beginning of 2018.

Transition

But the new cabinet has reversed that decision. Under pressure from coalition parties CDA and ChristenUnie, it was agreed in the coalition agreement that a "transitional arrangement" will apply to ecclesiastical organizations. In practice, this means that nothing will change for the time being. "The design of the transitional arrangement is still being negotiated," says a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior.

According to Privacy First, this policy must be terminated as soon as possible, since stricter European privacy legislation will take effect from 25 May. "The current tolerance policy for churches has to end," says Böhre. "Keeping an administration for religious groups is not a task for the government."

Database

Changes to the Municipal Basic Administration (GBA) are now automatically passed on to churches. This does not only happen when people move houses: also when marriages, divorces, births and deaths occur. The church database - SILA - contains the personal data of more than five million Dutch people. Those who no longer wish to receive mail from the church must unsubscribe themselves.

In 2016, coalition party VVD expressed their strong opposition to sharing personal data with churches in the House of Representatives. The party compared the data exchange with a situation in which the Turkish government would receive addresses from Turkish Dutch nationals in order to send them voting advice.

Source: Algemeen Dagblad