Two weeks ago, the University Council voted against the reactivation of the smart cameras and issued a negative advice to the Board. Although the advice is not binding, Board president Annetje Ottow had already said that she would abide by the Council's advice, should it be negative.
Nevertheless, Vice-chairman Martijn Ridderbos made one last attempt to change the University Council's mind with a charm offensive. He did so by reading an extensive statement, ‘because we value the accuracy and completeness of the response’.
WIND BACK THE CLOCK
Ridderbos argued that the Board ‘had gone through the process together’ and had acted on all the Council's demands.
‘Employees from various departments have made efforts last year to eliminate weaknesses in the system’, said Ridderbos. ‘We’ve conducted penetration tests, performed a DPIA, commissioned an independent third-party investigation, amended user agreements and had consultations with the suppliers. We communicated that to you and informed you about it.’
Some things ‘went wrong’ with regard to ‘security and privacy’, he continued. ‘We should have included you more from the beginning. If we could wind back the clock, we would do things differently.’
But he also said: ‘If you, as representatives of all our staff and students, feel that this technology does not belong at this university in the way we are proposing, we will remove it.’
And that is still what the Council wants, as became apparent after the statement. Council member Remco Breuker of staff party LAG: ‘I think the advice we gave is sound and I see no reason to revise it.’
Council member Patrick Klaassen of Universitair Belang agreed. ‘None of us take issue with the intention of utilising our rooms more effectively, but why does that require such specific technology?’
Ella Picavet (DSP) also remained adamant that the cameras stay off. ‘We discussed the matter at length. It wouldn't be fair to the community to suddenly change our minds now.’
Ludo Juurlink (Universitair Belang): ‘If the Board removes the cameras, you’re sending a signal to the community that you’re listening. Safe and anonymous use can only be guaranteed in one way: namely, by ensuring that the system has no technological applications.’
Thus, the Council stood by its negative advice. On Monday afternoon, university spokesperson Caroline van Overbeeke said that 'the university is now developing a plan to dismantle the people counters/sensors and, from the perspective of the sustainable reuse of resources, wants to try to find a suitable destination for their redeployment outside the university.’
2019: The University Services Department makes plans for an ‘extensive sensor system’.
6 August 2020: The Services Department procures several dozens of Xovis cameras, initially to monitor maximum building occupancy due to Covid-19.
30 October 2020: The University Council is informed about the cameras for the first time, but is only told that the devices are ‘people counters’.
September 2021: A total of 371 cameras are installed above entrances to buildings and lecture halls. The Services Department is now also planning to use the cameras to update lecture hall schedules.
17 November 2021: Mare reveals that the cameras were installed during lockdown and that the system is plagued by privacy and security issues.
25 November 2021: The Executive Board sends an email to all students and staff about the cameras. Read Mare's fact-check report here (Dutch).
29 November 2021: The Executive Board holds a closed-door meeting with the University Council about the matter and speaks of ‘unnecessary commotion due to inaccurate reporting’.
06 December 2021: The University Council sends a critical letter to the Executive Board.
07 December 2021: Protest at Lipsius: students and staff demand the removal of the cameras. 170 social scientists send an urgent letter to the Executive Board.
09 December 2021: After the letter and the protest, the Executive Board decides to turn off the cameras until further notice and launches a privacy and security investigation.
16 December 2021: During a protest at the Wijnhaven building, students once again call for the removal of the cameras.
January-March 2022: A technical investigation into the cameras reveals several security risks in the software that were also mentioned in Mare's original article. The manufacturer Xovis performs updates to resolve the flaws.
September 2022: A critical privacy report is shared with the University Council. Among other things, the report denounces the university's inconsiderate behaviour. The decision on what to do with the cameras is scheduled to be made in December, but is postponed to January 2023.
12 January 2023: The Executive Board announces its intention to reactivate the cameras. In an interview with Mare, Vice-chairman of the Executive Board Martijn Ridderbos said that ‘it's not us, the administrators, who benefit from this system, but primarily the students and staff’.
26 January 2023: In an open letter, nearly five hundred students and lecturers call on the University Council to vote against the cameras.
30 January 2023: The University Council issues an overwhelmingly negative advice regarding the reactivation of the cameras, with fundamental privacy concerns as the main reason.
13 February 2023: The Executive Board abides by the University Council’s negative advice. The cameras are turned off for good.