UWV illegally collected data from benefit recipients via websites

The UWV, the government agency that deals with benefits, illegally collected data from benefit recipients. Investigations by NOS and Nieuwsuur revealed that the usage behavior of benefit recipients on the UWV website was constantly analyzed and tracked by the agency to investigate whether they were illegally staying abroad while receiving unemployment benefits.

The Dutch benefits agency also secretly placed cookies on its website to track users. This enabled users that were logged in to be identified and automatically linked to their IP address, NOS found out.

Because this systematic monitoring went too far and there was no legal basis for the excessive website tracking of benefit recipients, Landsadvocaat, the permanent law firm of the government, concluded that the UWV system had to be shut down earlier this year.

The unlawful online monitoring ultimately resulted not only in the violation of the Data Protection Act but also that actual benefit recipient fraudsters were no longer being traced. This is because all 580 ongoing investigations were discontinued, even when fraud had already been proven. Now, the Personal Data Protection Authority wants clarification from the implementing agency.

The Dutch benefit agency said in a response that it regrets that it was not careful enough. “UWV is a public service provider and we set high standards for our role. In the case of our enforcement task, this means that careful action is very important. We find it extremely annoying that we failed to do so in this case,” NOS reported.

“I’m shocked,” says FNV union vice president Kitty Jong, who also advocates for benefit recipients. She is particularly angry about how unemployed citizens are treated. “Once again, we are targeting people who have just lost their jobs,” Jong says. “While the big fraud is being committed by tax evaders in Blaricum and Wassenaar. That’s where we want them to throw out a grid.”

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