The petition demands that the university removes the cameras.
The signatories state that the scanners are an infringement on their privacy. They also criticise the amount of money (210,000 euros) spent on the system, while other projects, such as a support group for victims of sexual harassment, were terminated.
A university should provide us with good education, not play a role of a bond villain’, one of the signatories writes. By Tuesday, the petition, which was launched by an anonymous student, had already been signed almost 1500 times.
On Wednesday, Mare published an article about the smart cameras that have been hanging at the entrances and lecture halls of all the faculties since last summer, which the university claims are used to register the occupancy of the halls. However, the sensors are also capable of identifying the age, gender and mood, among other things, of people passing by. According to experts, this may constitute a violation of privacy legislation on the university’s part.
Mare’s investigation also revealed that the security of the camera system was inadequate. For example, the administrator login screen was the top result in the Google search results, passwords were transmitted in unencrypted form and users who were not logged in could easily view the settings of the cameras.
This news led to outrage among students and employees. Some of them are considering submitting an enforcement request to the Dutch Data Protection Authority (DPA). ‘If the DPA were to enforce the law because more functionalities are enabled for the cameras than necessary, this could result in a large fine’, Bart Jacobs, professor of security, privacy & identity, previously told Mare. ‘A fine like that would be very painful for the university.’
‘Outrageous’, one assistant professor responded on Twitter. ‘I feel like I’m being spied on.’ Another assistant professor urged students to take their complaints to the Executive Board. According to him, sticking post-it notes and chewing gum on the ‘spy lenses’ or covering them with socks, face masks, shaving cream or whipped cream is not the right way for students to express their indignation.
Stickers are now circulating in students’ WhatsApp groups showing the university logo, under which, in addition to the motto praesidium libertatis (bastion of freedom), the phrase ‘Big Bro is watching’ is included.
In response to the commotion, the university has now posted a list of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ on its website, but not everyone is satisfied with the answers.