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Limits on government surveillance and the right to access information

R.V. and Others v. the Netherlands  | 1991

Limits on government surveillance and the right to access information

The applicants were the subjects of secret surveillance by the intelligence and security services … the information gathered on them comprises personal information and is kept in records.

Report by the European Commission of Human Rights

Background

R.V. lived in Utrecht and worked as a postman. He discovered that, along with almost 200 others, he was kept under secret surveillance by a group of government security services. The civilians were allegedly being monitored because they were part of the Peace Movement.

R.V. and others asked to see the information which had been collected about them. They claimed that it could have harmful effects on their future employment, and could be easily stolen. Their requests were all refused. 

Report by European Commission of Human Rights 

The body which used to help the Strasbourg court assess cases, the European Commission of Human Rights, found that the applicants’ right to privacy had been violated. The law covering security and intelligence activities had been extremely broad. It had not specified who could be monitored, the conditions under which the surveillance must operate, limits on the powers of the security services or a system to supervise them. 

Follow-up

In 2002, a new law clearly set out who could be subject to secret surveillance, the circumstances when this could take place and the methods which could be used. It also set up a procedure for people to request access to the information which had been gathered about them.