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Police stop anti-surveillance protesters taking coffin on board train

A group of masked protesters who tried to take a coffin on board a train to highlight the issue of digital privacy were thwarted after railway staff read about their plans on social media.

Amstel station, where protesters staged a symbolic funeral for Privacy.Around 20 officers from the railway police, along with several train staff, intercepted the members of Platform 1984 as they boarded the intercity service from Amstel to Utrecht on Monday.

The group was protesting against the OV chipcard – the electronic payment system used on Dutch railways – as part of a wider campaign against the use of technology to track people’s activity and movements.

 

The bare-chested quartet wore white Pierrot-style masks and were carrying a black coffin with the word PRIVACY painted in white letters on the side.

Spokeswoman Nina Peters told Het Parool: “The police forbade us to take the coffin with us in the train or carry it through the station.

“When we tried to walk through the train without the coffin, we were banned from handing out flyers or talking to passengers.”

Asked how railway staff became aware of the demonstration, Peters replied: “We think they saw something on social media.”

Platform 1984 organised the protest to express concern about the implications of the OV chipcard on personal privacy.

The electronic payment system is used across the Dutch railway network as well as on most tram and bus services. Travellers scan the card at the start and end of every journey and deduct the cost from a cash balance, which is topped up at bank machines.

The campaigners say the system breaches individuals’ privacy by storing details of people’s journeys on a database. An anonymous version is available but the group claims it still allows journeys to be recorded.

“This is the umpteenth step in the direction of a control society in which every step we take, who we talk with and what we say is being stored in ever-growing databases,” said Peters.

“By taking this action we want to increase people’s awareness of this dangerous development.”

A spokesman for the railway police said: “NS [the Dutch rail operator] told us they did not want a protest in the train, so we sent around 20 officers.

“They [the protesters] left the coffin behind and part of the group travelled by car to Utrecht after holding a funeral ceremony outside the station.”