European Parliament demands EU action to tackle spyware
Today, the European Parliament voted in favour of EU action to address the illegal use of spyware by a number of EU member states.
The European Parliament’s committee investigating the use of spyware, set up in the wake of the Pegasus wiretapping scandal, is calling for a set of safeguards for member states to continue using the software, including:
- Any licenses for the sale of spyware that are not in line with the dual-use regulation must be repealed;
- Any use of this technology must be in line with EU law, in particular human rights, even where national security is concerned; and
- The Commission should assess whether member states meet the requirements by November 30 and publish its findings in a report.
The report includes an extensive chapter on Greece and highlights that spying activities took place by both the Greek Intelligence Service and Predator. The text calls for Greece to immediately restore the independence of the judiciary and to reverse the legislative amendment which placed the Greek National Intelligence Service under the direct control of the prime minister. The report also demands that Greece withdraw the amendment that reduces the ability of the Greek communications watchdog, ADAE, to inform citizens about the declassification of communications and invites Europol to immediately participate in the investigations.
Reacting to the vote, Stelios Kouloglou (Syriza, Greece) said: “Even if internally, Kyriakos Mitsotakis claims that he did not know what was happening in his office, the European institutions are functioning and confirm categorically that the Greek prime minister was monitoring his political opponents and ministers, journalists, business people, the leadership of the armed forces and even their families for political and economic gain.
“The report demonstrates the enormous responsibilities of the Mitsotakis government, the central guidance from the prime minister’s office and the massive scale that the National Intelligence Service and Predator wiretapping in Greece had assumed. The finding, combined with the cynical attempt to cover up and the refusal to cooperate, put Mr. Mitsotakis and Greece in the same category as far-right governments of Hungary and Poland: an Orban of the Balkans who exposed the country internationally.”
The Committee was first convened a year ago, following revelations that a number of member states were using spyware to illegally target citizens. Through the Pegasus Project, more than 80 journalists from 17 media organisations in 10 countries found up to 50,000 phone numbers of potential surveillance targets. The European Parliament’s report focuses on the use of this spyware in Poland, Hungary, Greece, Cyprus and Spain in particular.
Cornelia Ernst (Die Linke, Germany) said: “We’ve scrutinised the entire spy software industry and it’s true: Pegasus is just the tip of the iceberg. One thing is clear: more investigative work is urgently needed to uncover and ultimately drain the swamp of this industry. The results of the investigations are an important signal for all victims of surveillance, in particular journalists and human rights defenders – whose rights violations are recognized for the first time at EU level. It is now up to the Commission to finally take its role as guardian of the treaties seriously and not to duck away from the member states. We need tough consequences for member states and urgent legislation to strictly regulate spyware, as the committee of inquiry is calling for.”
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