EU Parliament told to expect more revelations about NSA spying

Snowdon contact says revelations on private Wi-Fi NSA spying are still to come

At the start of an inquiry into American government communications surveillance programs Thursday, European parliamentarians (MEPs) were told to expect further revelations of mass spying by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Prominent hacker and Internet activist Jacob Appelbaum told the European Parliament's civil liberties committee (LIBE) that more information about government spying, this time involving private home Wi-Fi, is bound to come to the attention of the public.

LIBE heard from people connected with NSA leaker Edward Snowdon, including Alan Rusbridger, editor of The Guardian and Jacques Follorou, journalist for French newspaper Le Monde. The Guardian published initial revelations of NSA spying based on information from Snowden in June.

Appelbaum, meanwhile, said during Thursday's hearing that other leaks about NSA programs will reveal that the agency is hacking into personal Wi-Fi networks. He said it stands to reason that when surveillance by other means cannot be done, home Wi-Fi networks will be hacked.

"Where you have communications satellites, you'll have other satellites behind them," he continued. "The NSA collects everything. We have a planetary surveillance system that is not accountable to the people."

Rusbridger, who oversaw the publishing of the Snowdon articles, noted that great pains had been taking to protect the material involved in reporting the government surveillance stories. "Whether mass collection of data is compatible with a free society comes down to effective oversight," he said, adding that the technicians who build surveillance tools will always be ahead of laws that address privacy issues.

The committee is investigating the extent of data surveillance by U.S. authorities as well as any monitoring carried out by E.U. countries in the wake of the reports about NSA spying, including a U.S. program known as PRISM.

At the hearing Thursday, MEPs also reviewed the Parliament's 2001 inquiry into the Echelon system for global communications interception, which involved the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. However, Applebaum said that although the inquiry into Echelon was important, as it was the first time politicians were taking data interception seriously, "Echelon was child's play compared to PRISM-like programs."

The committee is supposed to present its findings by the end of the year and is expected to gather evidence about the alleged spying, its scope and impact as well as make proposals for redress in the event of confirmed violations of data-protection laws.

European Digital Rights (EDRi) and the Fundamental Rights European Experts Group (FREE) called on the committee to bring the activities of national security agencies in Europe and the U.S. "under the rule of law" and presented an analysis of how they think this can be done.

"They have been outside the scope of effective democratic oversight and outside clear legal frameworks for too long," said EDRi spokesman Joe McNamee.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to

Join the CSO newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags securitygovernmentEuropean Parliament

More about EchelonEuropean ParliamentNational Security AgencyNSA

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