PRISM: European Commission hits back at US surveillance

MEPs call for safeguards on data transferred outside the EU.

European Commission

MEPs from across the European Union (EU) have decried the US administration's PRISM digital communications monitoring programme and demanded European citizens be kept safe from such snooping.

The existence of PRISM was revealed on 7 June by former Booz Allen employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Our friends and partners go behind our backs and fish our citizens data.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The documents he leaked to the Guardian and Washington Post showed a number of big-name internet companies, including Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Dropbox, had allowed the NSA access to their data. However, the nature of this access is in dispute.

During a debate session of the European Commission's Civil Liberties Committee with justice commissioner Viviane Reding, most MEPs agreed the PRISM case presents an urgent need to pass legislation protecting EU citizens' personal data.

Reporting on her 14 June meeting with US attorney general Eric Holder in the Republic of Ireland, Reding said: "The PRISM case was a wake-up call that shows how urgent it is to advance with a solid piece of legislation.

"We agreed to set up a transatlantic group of experts to address concerns," she said, admitting not all questions had been answered during the meeting.

French MEP Veronique Mathieu described PRISM as "really shocking".

Advertisement - Article continues below

"We cannot allow Americans to spy on EU citizens ... even if it is a security matter," she said, adding work on the new EU data protection legislation needed to speed up.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Birgit Sippel, a German MEP, said: "Our friends and partners go behind our backs and fish our citizens data: this is dramatic.

"It is not true that this data is only used to fight terrorism. It is also used for immigration control. We need to ensure that people's data are protected whether or not they are suspected of a crime."

The committee released a draft data transfer safeguard, which would oblige the authorities of third-party countries to request data through legal channels.

However, Dutch MEP Sophie in 't Veld, said the EU needs to "show some backbone" and questioned whether American forces had been involved in redrafting the proposed safeguard, as the jurisdiction was deleted from the published draft, whereas it had been in place in a leaked first draft.

Reding's proposed group of experts is expected to hold its first meeting in July.

Featured Resources

Top 5 challenges of migrating applications to the cloud

Explore how VMware Cloud on AWS helps to address common cloud migration challenges

Download now

3 reasons why now is the time to rethink your network

Changing requirements call for new solutions

Download now

All-flash buyer’s guide

Tips for evaluating Solid-State Arrays

Download now

Enabling enterprise machine and deep learning with intelligent storage

The power of AI can only be realised through efficient and performant delivery of data

Download now


cyber security

NSA hands serious flaw to Microsoft rather than use it

15 Jan 2020
Policy & legislation

Breaking up big tech 'will cause more problems', says EU

8 Nov 2019

Most Popular


Zoom kills Facebook integration after data transfer backlash

30 Mar 2020
Server & storage

HPE warns of 'critical' bug that destroys SSDs after 40,000 hours

26 Mar 2020

These are the companies offering free software during the coronavirus crisis

25 Mar 2020
operating systems

17 Windows 10 problems - and how to fix them

26 Mar 2020