European commissioner demands Prism answers from US attorney general

Commissioner wants answers by Friday

Europe's justice commissioner has given the U.S. attorney general until Friday to explain how far the so-called Prism program went in collecting European citizens' data.

In a strongly-worded letter Commissioner Viviane Reding demanded to know what U.S. authorities are doing with Europeans' personal information collected as part of the Prism program, under which the U.S. government is said to have access to user data on Internet services supplied by Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, Apple and Skype.

Although the full text of the letter has not been published, Reding's office confirmed on Wednesday that it asked Attorney General Eric Holder how much surveillance the U.S. is conducting under the Prism program, whether private individuals are targeted, whether the surveillance involves issues beyond national security, under what laws the surveillance is conducted and how European citizens might find out if they've been targeted or their data collected.

Reding also wants to know what rights of redress European citizens will have if they have been spied on, and whether they would be treated similarly to U.S. citizens in such cases.

In the letter, Reding said she wants concrete answers to her questions when she meets Holder in Dublin on Friday at a pre-arranged event.

The commissioner also warned the attorney general that this issue could have an impact on the upcoming trans-Atlantic trade talks on TTIP (the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).

Reding is said to be very angry about the Prism revelations. "European citizens should be able to trust 100 per cent that companies collecting and processing their personal data will abide by European law," she said Wednesday on Twitter.

However, Swedish member of the European Parliament (MEP) Christian Engström accused the European Commission of failing to take the Prism revelations seriously and said that "it's not really news, in a sense that it was unexpected, but it's great that we now have more proof that this is actually happening."

He added that he hoped the outrage provoked by the revelations would help strengthen the European data protection rules currently going through Parliament.

Meanwhile, Dutch MEP Sophie in't Veld said that if necessary a special committee should be set up to inquire further into the matter. Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge called for the European Union to revoke the U.S.' safe harbor status and to cancel current data sharing agreements such as Swift for financial transactions and PNR (passenger name records).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is also likely to raise the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama when he visits Berlin next week.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Government use of ITregulationsecurityeuropean commissiongovernmentprivacy

More about AppleEuropean CommissionEuropean ParliamentFacebookFBIGoogleMicrosoftNSAPrismSkypeYahoo

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Jennifer Baker

Latest Videos

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Will your data protection strategy be enough when disaster strikes?

    Speakers: - Paul O’Connor, Engagement leader - Performance Audit Group, Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) - Nigel Phair, Managing Director, Centre for Internet Safety - Joshua Stenhouse, Technical Evangelist, Zerto - Anthony Caruana, CSO MC & Moderator

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: The Human Factor - Your people are your biggest security weakness

    ​Speakers: David Lacey, Researcher and former CISO Royal Mail David Turner - Global Risk Management Expert Mark Guntrip - Group Manager, Email Protection, Proofpoint

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Current ransomware defences are failing – but machine learning can drive a more proactive solution

    Speakers • Ty Miller, Director, Threat Intelligence • Mark Gregory, Leader, Network Engineering Research Group, RMIT • Jeff Lanza, Retired FBI Agent (USA) • Andy Solterbeck, VP Asia Pacific, Cylance • David Braue, CSO MC/Moderator What to expect: ​Hear from industry experts on the local and global ransomware threat landscape. Explore a new approach to dealing with ransomware using machine-learning techniques and by thinking about the problem in a fundamentally different way. Apply techniques for gathering insight into ransomware behaviour and find out what elements must go into a truly effective ransomware defence. Get a first-hand look at how ransomware actually works in practice, and how machine-learning techniques can pick up on its activities long before your employees do.

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: Get real about metadata to avoid a false sense of security

    Speakers: • Anthony Caruana – CSO MC and moderator • Ian Farquhar, Worldwide Virtual Security Team Lead, Gigamon • John Lindsay, Former CTO, iiNet • Skeeve Stevens, Futurist, Future Sumo • David Vaile - Vice chair of APF, Co-Convenor of the Cyberspace Law And Policy Community, UNSW Law Faculty This webinar covers: - A 101 on metadata - what it is and how to use it - Insight into a typical attack, what happens and what we would find when looking into the metadata - How to collect metadata, use this to detect attacks and get greater insight into how you can use this to protect your organisation - Learn how much raw data and metadata to retain and how long for - Get a reality check on how you're using your metadata and if this is enough to secure your organisation

    Play Video

  • 150x50

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them

    CSO Webinar: How banking trojans work and how you can stop them Featuring: • John Baird, Director of Global Technology Production, Deutsche Bank • Samantha Macleod, GM Cyber Security, ME Bank • Sherrod DeGrippo, Director of Emerging Threats, Proofpoint (USA)

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place