Saturday

24th Feb 2018

MEPs target exports of cyber surveillance tech

  • A French company is under investigation for selling surveillance technology to the regime in Egypt (Photo: Alisdare Hickson)

The European Parliament is set to vote on a bill on Wednesday (17 January) that aims to crack down on cyber surveillance technology sold to countries with dubious human rights records.

The move follows widespread condemnation of autocratic regimes for lynching activists in the lead up to and during the 'Arab Spring'. Some of those regimes relied on cyber surveillance technology to suppress dissidents.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

German companies are said to be among Europe's biggest exporters, with clients in places like Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Klaus Buchner, a German MEP from the Ecological Democratic Party, is leading the file on behalf of the European Parliament.

"Iran is an example [of using] German technology, Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and some others," he told reporters last week in Brussels.

Last December, a Paris prosecutor opened a judicial investigation into French firm Nexa Technologies after it landed a surveillance contract with the authoritarian Egyptian regime of Abdel Fattah Al Sissi.

Amnesty International says BAE Systems, the UK's largest arms manufacturer, had also last year exported controlled internet surveillance systems to Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Morocco, and Algeria.

The latest bill on the parliament's table is a recasting of a 2011 European dual-use regulation whereby technologies can be used for both civil and military applications.

The European Commission had proposed to amend the regulation, which covers an annual €80 billion market, with stronger rules for the protection of human rights.

MEPs in the International Trade Committee (INTA) had agreed in November to include a human rights catch-all clause on cyber surveillance in the reforms. Such technology can be used to intercept mobile phones, circumvent passwords and remotely hack into computers.

"Until now, authorities had no obligation to reject requests for licenses in which human rights were not guaranteed," Anne-Marie Mineur, a Dutch MEP from the left-wing GUE group, told reporters in Strasbourg on Tuesday (16 January).

She said only 14 out of the 371 applications for export of European cyber surveillance technologies had been recently denied.

"More than half of these exports were meant for countries that have a very poor track record in terms of freedom of speech and other human rights," she said.

The reform includes due diligence rules for the broker or the exporter who will be obliged to inform member state authorities should the potential of abuse arise. The rule, however, is not enforced.

It also proposes penalties or fines will be the same for all countries found to violate the regulation. Those amounts have yet to be determined. Member states will also have to make the licensing data regarding approved and denied exports available for public scrutiny.

The latest commission reform was widely endorsed by committee MEPs from almost all the political groups and is likely to receive the backing of Wednesday's European plenary.

Should the plenary agree to the proposal then the Council, representing member states, will have to come up with their position for tripartite negotiations can start.

MEPs are hoping to launch talks under the Austrian EU presidency, during the second half of this year, and have the bill agreed before 2019.

"These new rules should eventually stop EU-produced surveillance equipment from being exported to countries where there is a high risk it would be used to abuse journalists, activists and others who work to defend rights," said Nele Meyer, senior executive officer at Amnesty International.

Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants

Germany's spy agency says the Chinese state is trying to recruit high-ranking German officials via social media outlets like LinkedIn. It accused Chinese intelligence of setting up fake profiles to lure them into becoming informants.

Opinion

Taking full benefit of supercomputers in Europe

Newly-announced financial help for so-called 'supercomputers' can help both EU member states, and small and medium-sized companies to grow - in fields such as health diagnostics, driverless cars and even earthquake predicting.

Data privacy chiefs wary of lagging EU states

EU data protection chiefs are worried member states won't be ready when a new wide-sweeping general data protection regulation goes live on 25 May. National laws still need to be passed to ensure data authorities can enforce the regulation EU-wide.

MEPs to look for 'bullet-proof' pesticide approval

After the controversial glyphosate authorisation renewal saga, a new European Parliament committee will review future authorisation procedures, in a bid to avoid scientific and procedural mistakes. Its composition will be voted on by MEPs on Thursday.

News in Brief

  1. EU calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria
  2. UK's post-Brexit vision is 'pure illusion', Tusk says
  3. EU leaders express solidarity with Cyprus in Turkey drill row
  4. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  5. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  6. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  7. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  8. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU agrees budget to focus on defence, security and migration
  2. EU leaders nix transnational lists, cool on 'Spitzenkandidat'
  3. Regions chief: calls for smaller EU budget are 'impossible'
  4. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  5. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  6. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  7. European far-right political party risks collapse
  8. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?