Protecting children’s privacy is also a political issue. The Take Back Your Privacy Foundation spoke with Marieke Koekkoek, member of parliament for the pan-European party Volt. Volt calls education and digitization key elements of the 21st century. Mrs. Koekkoek has a legal background and faced privacy-related issues as a researcher and lawyer, among other things. TBYP asked her about her commitment to the privacy rights of Dutch people, and more specifically Dutch children. TBYP’s TikTok campaign is also discussed.
1. Why did you start advocating for the privacy rights of Dutch citizens? Was there a specific reason?
As a researcher I worked on the issue of jurisdiction and privacy rules, and as a trainee lawyer I dealt with privacy and IP-related questions. So, I already knew something about the importance of privacy rights and its challenges before I started working as an MP. It worries me that we often see digitization (and all the rules that come with it) as something technical, something we normally have nothing to do with. This gives companies (among others) a lot of room to set the rules, something we normally leave in society to a democratically elected government. It is obvious to me that the rights you have in the physical world should also apply in the digital world. At the same time, we must make sure that we are not too cautious out of misunderstanding, and this stops us from doing things that improve lives. That’s what I think is the challenge as a MP: to find that balance and reflect it in legislation.
2. Can you tell us something about what you do as a member of Parliament in the fight for a safer internet for children?
Volt wants children to be taught digital skills and resilience at school. This was already implemented in Finland. Freedom of information on the Internet is a great thing, but just as we teach children what good sources are when they write a paper or paper, we must also make sure they know what they should and should not believe on the Internet.
We also want proper implementation in the Netherlands of the European Digital Services Act, to combat the spread of disinformation. And we are working on a mandatory algorithm register for government agencies, so that it is clear on what basis selection choices are made. More transparency and understandable information about the use of algorithms online would also be helpful (such as on social media). In addition, we want to work for a ban on micro-targeting, which means you are not allowed to target specific personalized advertising. Certainly not when it comes to children.
3. Can the government do more to protect children in the digital realm?
Certainly. For example, we would like to see the government implement the Children’s Rights Code and actively inform what the rights and opportunities are for young people. Also, (part of) the Code could be converted into legally enforceable regulations. It would be good to rely less on self- and co-regulation for large platforms, especially when it comes to children. And we need to strengthen enforcement of current laws and regulations (such as the Dutch Data Protection Authority oversight of the GDPR). This does not necessarily mean more money, but better spending and a focus on the areas where a lot goes wrong or where the risks are high. Otherwise the GDPR would be a toothless tiger.
4. Have you yourself ever experienced a violation of your privacy?
This has been a regular occurrence since I became a Member of Parliament. All sorts of things are shouted and claimed about MPs, and of course I also get a good dose of threats and slurs. That seems to be the norm in this job these days. Twitter in particular is a disruptive medium in this regard. I take various precautions so that my address is untraceable, my children are untraceable online, and my movements are not known far in advance (if I am going to an event). The moment your privacy comes under pressure, it only becomes clear how important it is to be able to keep certain information to yourself.
5. What would you advise Take Back Your Privacy and the Consumentenbond in their action against the privacy and consumer rights violations by TikTok?
Don’t give up. Strategic litigation works! Think of the Urgenda case, for example. Activate society and politics as well. In the fight for digital freedom and security, we must all work together.