The Evolution of Privacy Law and Policy in the Netherlands

15 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2011

See all articles by Bert-Jaap Koops

Bert-Jaap Koops

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT)

Date Written: April 15, 2011


This paper describes how privacy and data protection law and policy have evolved in the Netherlands from the 1960s onwards. The description is guided by two questions: have policy changes occurred in privacy legislation, and how can these changes be explained? The paper describes, first, legislation focusing on spatial and relational privacy, with a primary focus on constitutional law; second, informational privacy or data protection legislation; and third, non-privacy-focused legislation which impacts negatively on privacy and data protection. The analysis shows that, since privacy emerged on the policy agenda in the late 1960s, privacy law and policy can be roughly divided into two periods: two decades of creating general privacy frameworks in the Constitution and comprehensive data protection legislation, and two decades of updating these general frameworks in light of technological developments while also passing many privacy-diminishing laws to serve other policy goals. The rise of the information society, the network society, and the risk society can explain a privacy policy change occurring somewhere during the 1980s. This change can be interpreted either as a shift from generally privacy-friendly policy to generally privacy-unfriendly policy, or as a shift in focus from general, privacy-centric framework regulation to specific, privacy-unrelated legislation targeted at other, higher-ranking policy goals, such as organized crime, immigration, and health and safety. The current outlook for privacy protection does not seem bright, but recent developments in media and public agenda setting suggest that privacy and data protection are about to become more important policy issues in sectoral legislation. Perhaps the future of privacy protection, if it has a future, should be sought outside privacy and data protection law itself.

Keywords: privacy, data protection, Netherlands, policy change, agenda-setting

JEL Classification: O38, K39

Suggested Citation

Koops, Bert-Jaap, The Evolution of Privacy Law and Policy in the Netherlands (April 15, 2011). Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, Vol. 13, No. 2, pp. 165-179, 2011. Available at SSRN:

Bert-Jaap Koops (Contact Author)

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) ( email )

P.O.Box 90153
Prof. Cobbenhagenlaan 221
Tilburg, 5037

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