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MEPs call for action against abuse of spyware (interview)

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MEPs have raised concerns about the abuse of spyware like Pegasus and called for action.

In June 2023, Parliament adopted recommendations for future action against the abuse of spyware. MEPs want EU rules allowing the use of spyware only when strict conditions are fulfilled, thorough investigations into suspected abuse and help for people who have been targeted. They also called for the creation of an EU Tech Lab to help uncover illicit surveillance and co-ordination with non-EU countries such as the US and Israel.

Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew, Netherlands), who guided the report through the Parliament, explains more about the dangers of spyware in the video. You can read excerpts below.

What is Pegasus?

Pegasus is a brand of spyware. It completely takes over your phone. It has access to your messages. It can activate your camera, your microphone. It has access to your images, to your documents, to your apps: everything. There are also other brands of spyware.

What is the danger of Pegasus and other spyware?

It’s not just an attack on our privacy. It’s also an attack on democracy. Because we need journalists who can investigate and expose crime and wrongdoing. We need opposition politicians, we need critical NGOs, we need lawyers. We need people who can freely scrutinise power, hold power to account. It’s democratic control.

What happens if such people are spied on?

They can be blackmailed, they can be discredited, they can be harassed. There’s a chilling effect. People are not so outspoken anymore, they’re worried about who they meet, what kind of information they store on their devices.

Could the abuse of spyware affect the EU elections?

The abuse of spyware is definitely a threat to the integrity of elections. And it’s not just about politicians, because how can elections be fair if journalists are unable to scrutinise government and to report on what the government has done well and what it has done wrong?

What is Parliament doing about the abuse of spyware in the EU?

The role of parliamentary watchdog is one of the of the European Parliament’s important tasks. There’s a handful of governments abusing spyware. European laws have been violated and the European Commission has not acted. The European Parliament really has to put pressure on the Commission for it to do its job.

The European Parliament’s work against abuse of spyware

The recommendations were drafted by a committee investigating Pegasus and other spyware, set up by the Parliament following revelations that several EU governments used the Pegasus spyware software against journalists, politicians, officials and other public figures.

In its final report adopted in May, the inquiry committee raised concerns about the impact of spyware abuse on democracy, civil society and the media in several Ehttps://www.europeantimes.news/europe/U countries.

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