Thousands of privacy complaints on the shelf at the Dutch Data Protection Authority

According to the National Ombudsman, the Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP) does not deal well with people who complain about the handling of their privacy complaints. Research shows that at the end of 2020, there were about 9,800 privacy complaints “off the shelf” with the AP. According to the Ombudsman, it still takes a long time to process these complaints. And when a decision is finally made, it is not clear to many people where they will turn if they do not agree with it.

vague and complex procedures

The National Ombudsman believes that the AP works more on the basis of rules and impossibilities rather than solutions. Moreover, the AP thinks and acts inadequately from a citizen’s perspective. This means that the complaints procedure often falters and falters in written correspondence. People are also often referred to rules and procedures that are often complex. According to the ombudsman, the AP should provide a pragmatic approach. This also gives the service itself more “airway” to resolve the backlog of privacy complaints.

The Ombudsman said, “The government should deal with citizens in an appropriate manner. By preventing problems with citizens where possible or solving them in a professional manner in another way. The way the authority operates now does not meet what we can expect from them.”

Recommendations for improvement

In addition to noting that the handling of privacy complaints does not go well, the ombudsman does so Transfer (pdf) Also some recommendations for solving problems. Providing more expertise, time and space to handle complaints is one of them. Needless to say, the AP should treat every expression of citizen dissatisfaction as a complaint. People often feel like they are standing in front of a closed door. Other recommendations are providing regular status updates on complaints, in clear and understandable language, and in personal communication.

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All recommendations at a glance:

Recommendation: Citizens should be able to appeal decisions regarding privacy complaints

• When deciding on a privacy complaint, clearly tell the citizen what kind of decision it means, what are the consequences of the decision and how the citizen can appeal the decision. For example, is it a rejected decision or should a citizen file a complaint if he does not agree with the decision?

• Always mention where citizens can ask questions about the decision.

• Work from the concept of a single window: Do not place the responsibility of contacting a colleague or another department on the citizen. Hand over the case properly internally and make sure the substance of the case is dealt with.

Recommendation: Citizens who have complaints about the AP should be heard

• Treat any expression of dissatisfaction as a complaint and ensure that all employees are aware of this.

• Contact citizens who have a complaint personally.

• Use clear and understandable language.

• Complaint handling is a profession: make sure you have sufficient experience, time and space for this work.

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