There’s been a big shake-up in the world of unemployment benefits, and it’s got everyone talking. The Dutch government agency UWV, responsible for handling benefits, has been caught with its hands in the proverbial cookie jar. After investigations by NOS and Nieuwsuur, they revealed a rather unsettling fact: the UWV had been secretly keeping tabs on the online activities of benefits recipients. And for what nefarious purpose, you ask? To see if they were illegally staying abroad while claiming unemployment benefits. Talk about an invasion of privacy!
But there’s more to it than just prying eyes. The agency went a step further and planted cookies on their website to track its users. That’s right, the moment you logged in, your identity and IP address were linked, all without your knowledge or consent. The Landsadvocaat, the government’s permanent law firm, deemed this excessive website tracking illegal and ordered it to be shut down earlier this year.
The fall out from this scandal was far-reaching. Not only did this breach the Data Protection Act, but it also led to the discontinuation of all 580 ongoing investigations, even when fraud had been proven. Now, the Personal Data Protection Authority is demanding answers from the UWV.
In response, the Dutch benefit agency expressed regret over its lack of caution. “We set high standards for our role,” they said, “and it’s very disappointing that we failed to meet them in this case.” Kitty Jong, vice president of the FNV union and advocate for benefit recipients, voiced her outrage. She criticized the targeting of unemployed citizens, arguing that the real fraud was being committed by tax evaders in Blaricum and Wassenaar, not those who have recently lost their jobs.