Online surveillance: Dutch counterterrorism organization allegedly uses fake accounts to track people

The Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) has followed politicians, left-wing and right-wing activists, and religious leaders for years using fake accounts, reports the national newspaper NRC on Friday. Unlike the police or the secret service, the coordinator has no authority to track people online.

The newspaper’s investigation was based on conversations with dozens of stakeholders and internal documents. Confidential analyzes would reveal who the persons portrayed were married to, whether they had children and who they associate with, sometimes including photographs.

So-called ‘weekly reports’ about certain persons were also reported to have been sent to municipalities, the police, the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD), and foreign security services. This would have been the case several times with, among others, a preacher from Almere.

The NCTV was established to coordinate information between government agencies. The agency also makes its own analyzes about national security. However, according to the newspaper, it is nowhere specified how far the coordinator may go in collecting information about persons and organizations.

In the Netherlands, only the police and the secret service have the authority to follow people online. They must be accountable for this to supervisors. The NCTV does not have these powers and is therefore not accountable for this.

The NCTV has said that it did not wish to comment on the findings in the report. NCTV boss Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told NRC that the body may investigate online communications, but that things have also happened for which there was no legal basis. He says that the NCTV has now stopped doing so.