Dutch Police Appeal Gets Rebuff From Privacy Activists

October 24, 2009 Updated: October 25, 2009

WOERDEN, The Netherlands—A video of a man breaking into an old lady's house was aired on a Dutch police website in a bid to put a name to the culprit.

However, the publication immediately drew fire from anti-privacy campaigners, and raised the question of how far police can go in using public appeals for information.

The complaint was filed by a Dutch organization called “Union of Lawbreakers” (BWO), who said in a petition to the country's National Ombudsman that the video violates the privacy of the intruder.

The BWO, founded in 1972 with the aim to look after the interests of prisoners and ex-prisoners, says that security cameras in shops should be allowed but that “this is going too far.”

They hope to use the break-in video as a test case to further their cause.

In the video a young man can be seen going though the house, looking in bags and other places while the 88-year-old owner was not at home.

The video camera was installed by family members of the woman because they say it was not the first time the man intruded the house. The recording was handed over to the local police and posted on the police website with the consent of the Public Prosecutor.

On internet forums last week, the Dutch public were debating the move.

“The privacy and integrity of the victim are not taken into consideration? That poor lady was robbed by a coward. It is a disgrace,” said Ineke from Groningen on the website of the Telegraph newspaper.

“In the Netherlands things are really put upside down, bizarre!,” said Jannie from Gouda.

In an ironic twist, the break-in video ended up gaining a greater audience than would have been possible, after it was circulated on the internet and reported on in the Dutch media.