Friday

18th Jun 2021

Spy scandal to impact talks on EU-US data treaty

  • Trust us, we're America: the classified papers show European data held by nine Internet giants is up for grabs (Photo: prameya)

Classified documents obtained by the Washington Post and The Guardian reveal that the National Security Agency, a US intelligence-gathering body, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are secretly tapping into the servers of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.

The program - called Prism - is the latest in a series of secret data gathering schemes put in place after 9/11.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Europeans have had their banking data, air passenger data - and now their personal online data - snooped on by US authorities without their knowledge or the knowledge of their governments.

On Thursday (6 June), US intelligence chief James Clapper defended Prism, saying it contains "numerous safeguards that protect privacy and civil liberties"

He said in a written statement that: “There is a robust legal regime in place governing all activities conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which ensures that those activities comply with the Constitution and laws and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties."

Members of the European Parliament overseeing talks on a new EU-US data protection agreement reacted with scepticism, however.

"Common rules will only be possible if the principles of data protection will be accepted in the US. The foreseen, but struggling EU-US umbrella agreement, would be a good chance to show that this is the case," German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht told this website.

Dutch Liberal deputy, Sophie in't Veld, told EUobserver the Prism scandal "could help raise awareness" of the issues in Brussels.

She said it should prompt the European Commission take a tougher stance in future US talks.

But she added that progress on the data pact has stalled because the US, as well as private Internet firms, are trying to claw EU data safeguards out of the text.

"I am somewhat surprised everybody is getting so excited about this latest scandal. It is just one of the many examples of the US tapping into our data without telling us. And of the EU commission doing nothing about it," in't Veld said.

The Dutch politician noted that past EU-US deals on data security - such as Swift (bank details) or PNR (air-passenger data) - were formally concluded years after they had already been secretly implemented.

"They are not really applied, since there is no limitation to the amount of data sent to them [the US]," she noted.

In't Veld said Europeans should put more hope in US citizens than in Brussels to protect their rights.

She said that if ordinary Americans demand a roll-back on data snooping, it might force the US to take a softer line in EU talks.

"The EU commission has a strong tradition of late and inadequate reaction," In't Veld noted.

A commission spokeswoman told this website on Friday (7 June) it has no comment at this stage on Prism or its impact on the EU-US data treaty.

US free to grab EU data on American clouds

An obscure section in a US law is said to entitle authorities to access, without a warrant, data stored by any EU citizen on clouds run by American companies.

Vestager not involved in Danish spy scandal, says office

Margrethe Vestager was interior and deputy prime minister during the reported US-led Danish spying scandal of top European allies. But her office points out that Danish intelligence services are overseen by its ministry of defence and justice.

EU breaks silence on US snooping scandal

A junior EU official on Tuesday urged the US not to abuse its "special relationship" with Europe, in Brussels' first reaction to the NSA snooping scandal.

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council enters into formal relations with European Parliament
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen more active in violent extremist circles than first assumed
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance

Latest News

  1. AstraZeneca must deliver 50m doses by September or face fines
  2. Next week is time for EU to finally lead on rule of law
  3. Austria blocking EU sanctions on Belarus banks
  4. Number of people forcibly displaced reaches historic high
  5. Three-quarters of EU citizens support vaccines, survey finds
  6. NGOs: Leaked EU biomass reform 'denial of science'
  7. US and Russia restart talks on cyber and nuclear war
  8. Europe needs to help sea rescues, say NGOs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us