French prosecutor starts preliminary inquiry into Prism privacy violations

Two human rights organizations contend that NSA and FBI spying may have violated French law

Allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on French citizens with its Prism program have prompted the French public prosecutor to begin a preliminary inquiry, a court spokeswoman said Thursday.

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the French Human Rights League (LDH) filed a 16-page complaint against persons unknown with the Paris High Court on July 11.

In it they alleged that a number of offenses had been committed, including collection of personal data by illegal means, breach of privacy, fraudulent access to a computer system and interception of electronic communications.

They asked the public prosecutor to investigate the alleged offenses, which they said were revealed in documents released in June by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

A French court should investigate because French law applies when the victim of a crime is French, even if it is committed outside the country, the FIDH and the LDH said in their complaint.

The documents revealed by Snowden indicate that the NSA and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation may have committed a number of offenses under French law, the two organizations claimed. In addition, they said, companies named in the documents including AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo could be considered accomplices.

The prosecutor has now begun a preliminary inquiry, a spokeswoman for the court said Thursday. The first phase of the inquiry is to ask the FIDH and the LDH to clarify their complaints, and it is too early to say what steps may be taken after that, she said.

Allegations that the NSA and others are spying on European citizens will also be the topic of a meeting of the European Commission's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee next Thursday. The committee is due to meet journalists who uncovered the matter.

Peter Sayer covers open source software, European intellectual property legislation and general technology breaking news for IDG News Service. Send comments and news tips to Peter at peter_sayer@idg.com.

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags CriminalsecurityInternational Federation for Human RightsU.S. National Security AgencylegalFrench Human Rights Leagueprivacycybercrime

More about AOLAppleEuropean CommissionFacebookFederal Bureau of InvestigationGoogleIDGMicrosoftNational Security AgencyNSAPrismYahoo

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

Editor's Recommendations

Solution Centres

Stories by Peter Sayer

Latest Videos

  • 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

  • 150x50

    IDG Live Webinar:The right collaboration strategy will help your business take flight

    Speakers - Mike Harris, Engineering Services Manager, Jetstar - Christopher Johnson, IT Director APAC, 20th Century Fox - Brent Maxwell, Director of Information Systems, THE ICONIC - IDG MC/Moderator Anthony Caruana

    Play Video

More videos

Blog Posts

Market Place