Truth from the sewage: are we flushing privacy down the drain?


  • Bart van der Sloot


Wastewater is a new source of information being harvested in the fight against a wide range of phenomena, such as cancer, drug production, and Covid19. Law enforcement agencies monitor sewage systems to locate buildings where XTC and amphetamines are produced. Smart toilets allow citizens to analyse their faeces for prevalent diseases. National Health Institutes monitor wastewater to alert them of early virus outbreaks. Given the wealth of information that can be harvested, sewage monitoring might become one of the most common and invasive forms of surveillance in the coming years. Although potentially problematic in light of the right to privacy and data protection, it is unclear whether and to what extent the various forms of sewage monitoring would fall under the material scope of these rights. In addition, if they would, the question is whether they would be prohibited or would meet the various requirements entailed in the relevant legal instruments.






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