Dutch government to allow police to tap conversations on Skype

Legislation an effort to close ‘massive technical loophole’

A man uses the Skype application on an iPad. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire

A man uses the Skype application on an iPad. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA Wire


The Netherlands recently raised its alert level for terrorist attacks from “limited” to the second highest level, “substantial”, as a result of increasing links between Islamic militants here and in Syria – and the domestic intelligence service, AIVD, has increased its surveillance of suspect networks.

The National Counterterrorism Co-ordinator revealed that as many as 100 young men had recently travelled to Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria, and said: “These jihadist travellers can return highly radicalised, traumatised, and with a strong desire to commit violence, thus posing a significant threat to this country.”

The proposal to allow the tapping of Skype and other VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocols) services is contained in draft legislation which will look at computer-related crime in general, following a string of DDos (distributed denial-of-service) attacks last month which left key banking services paralysed.

The legislation would allow police to hack into suspects’ computers – even servers outside the Netherlands – to disable “botnets”, networks of computers that are being used to bombard systems with information, spread viruses or steal login details. It would also force anyone suspected of terrorist or child pornography offences, for example, to hand over their passwords and encryption details or face jail. And it would make buying stolen computer information a criminal offence.

“Many of these provisions would only be used under strict conditions and supervision – and would have to be approved first by a judge,” said the justice minister, Ivo Opstelten.

Eurojust, the EU’s judicial co-operation agency, based in The Hague, is working on ways “to overcome the technical and judicial obstacles to the interception of internet telephone systems” in line with the data protection laws of the 27 member states.

“Bringing internet telephone into line with calls on landlines and mobile phones could be the price we have to pay for our security,” said a spokesperson.