Article 13 of the Dutch constitution declares a secrecy of correspondence, meaning the government and others are not allowed to snoop on your mail.
However, there is an unfortunate loophole: the law specifically talks about paper mail. E-mail was never included and therefore exists in a legal limbo.
According to Internet lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet, the council of ministers of the Netherlands has now proposed a change in the constitution that will not actually name e-mail, but which will make the phrasing of Article 13 more generic. A change in the constitution requires two consecutive parliaments to vote for that change, the idea being that the change can be made an issue in the elections.
Not that it matters much, as the Dutch constitution, which is now 200 years old, is more of a guideline than law. Judges are not allowed to ignore laws based on their constitutionality. The constitution may be said to have a normative function, for example, it could show courts how to interpret a vague law, but a 2009 study by the national government claims that this normative function is eroding (PDF). Instead a societal function is emerging, as the constitution aims to hold up a mirror to the citizens of the kingdom and to show us what our shared values are.
See also: an English translation of Article 13.
(Photo of the constitution of 1814 by Grondwetfestival.nl, used with permission)
Tags: constitution, e-mail, laws, privacy
PR agencies and journalists alike have been screaming blue murder the past few days over the perceived consequences of the new anti-spam law. Laurens Verhagen of Nu.nl, the website known for never writing its own stories if it can help it, whines (Dutch) that “an unintended side-effect is that PR agencies are no longer allowed to send press releases.”
Other journalists cheer on the new law. NRC.next’s Ernst-Jan Pfauth hails the death of the press release (Dutch): “Press release are old-fashioned, unnecessary and often misused.”
But as the here-often-quoted Internet law specialist Arnoud Engelfriet explains at De Nieuwe Reporter, the law has a provision for e-mail addresses that have been explicitly designed for receiving bulk mails. Also, the spam prohibition only pertains to advertising, informative e-mails are not part of the law.
That means that from now on only advertisements dressed up as press releases are out, but I cannot imagine that even Laurens Verhagen would bemoan such an intended consequence.
A tempest in a teapot.
(Photo of a letterbox by Roy Parkhouse, some rights reserved.)
Tags: e-mail, journalism, law, press releases, spam
Tomorrow the prohibition on business spam mails (Dutch) will come into effect.
Sending e-mail spam to consumers has been illegal in the Netherlands since 2004. Back then I wrote elsewhere that this would be enough to deter Dutch spammers because separating out business addresses from home addresses would be too costly. It seems I was wrong though. Since the general spam prohibition was passed into law, I have been deluged with the stuff on my business account. (It takes half a year for a law to come into effect after it has passed both houses of parliament, in case you were wondering.)
The maximum fine for sending spam in the Netherlands is 450,000 euro.
(Photo of spam on a barbecue by Kyle Nishioka, some rights reserved. Cropped by me. Link tip: every retard who has been sending me a reminder the past week that I need to explicitly sign up for their trash if I were to go batshit insane and suddenly decide to want to keep receiving their mails after October 1.)
Tags: crime, e-mail, spam