Report by MEPs urges stricter regulation for spyware across EU

Spyware has been used by some EU countries, including Hungary and Poland, to look into their opponents.
Spyware has been used by some EU countries, including Hungary and Poland, to look into their opponents. Copyright Elise Amendola/AP
Copyright Elise Amendola/AP
By Aida Sanchez Alonso
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The PEGA committee in the European Parliament has looked into the use of malicious software used for snooping purposes.

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Spyware, such as Pegasus and Predator, used by some European countries to spy on politicians, journalists and citizens, must have stricter regulations, according to MEPs.

It is one of the main findings of the European Parliament committee known as PEGA which has carried out a year-long investigation into the use of spyware.

MEPs on the committee argue that spyware is a threat to democracy and should only be used under strict conditions.

"We need to make sure that it can only be used in very strictly limited conditions to fight terrorism, to fight organised crime," Jeroen Lenaers, the PEGA Committee chair told Euronews.

"Any abuse of it directly undermines democracy in the EU, directly undermines the rule of law and all governments have a responsibility to counter this. 

"Looking at the way member states have cooperated with the investigation, I think we can be critical towards all member states for not really cooperating with the work that we wanted to do."

The final report includes specific recommendations for five countries where abuse of spyware has been identified.

In Hungary and Poland, the governments have dismantled independent oversight mechanisms and are being asked to restore judicial independence. In Greece, it has been used for political and financial gain.

Cyprus is also accused of exporting the technology to third countries.

And in Spain, the report asks for a fair investigation in 47 cases where it is unclear who authorised the deployment of the spyware.

One of the MEPs in charge of the investigation told Euronews that throughout the process, she was pressured by national interests trying to influence, delay and even block the committee's work.

"But you know what? If we tolerate in the European Union that journalists are being spied on with spyware - government critics, opposition politicians, but even members of governing parties who are then being blackmailed - if we accept that, then democracy is dead," Sophie in 't Veld, a Dutch MEP said in an interview.

The concerned member states have until the end of the year to abide by the new conditions. If they do not, the European Parliament is asking that those spyware technologies be banned.

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