´Illegal´ use of spyware in at least four EU countries

´Illegal´ use of spyware in at least four EU countries

Spyware has been used "unlawfully" in at least four  European Union  countries - Poland, Hungary, Greece and Spain, according to a temporary report issued by the European Parliament on Tuesday, calling for a "cessation of use" of these technologies.

"The abusive use of spyware in member states of the European Union constitutes a serious threat to democracy on the entire continent," said the rapporteur, member of the Dutch parliament, Sophie Entfeld (Renewing Europe), during a press conference.

"In a democratic country, putting people under surveillance should be the exception... It should not be used for political or partisan purposes," she added.

She noted that in many cases, governments of member states refused to share official information with the European Parliament´s investigative committee, which had to base its work on other sources, especially journalistic investigations.

"In Poland and Hungary, we see the Pegasus spy program as an essential part of a system designed to control and even suppress citizens critical of the government, members of the opposition, journalists and whistleblowers," she said.

In Greece, where the Parliamentary Committee called on the government on Friday to "conduct an urgent and comprehensive investigation" into the Predator wiretapping scandal, "we see evidence (...) of a systematic and widespread use within the framework of a clear political strategy."

In Spain, there are "strong indications that political figures and others unrelated to a clear and imminent threat to national security have been spied on," according to her.

She added that the technologies investigative committee should focus more on the case of Cyprus, citing "indications" of the use of these to monitor citizens, saying that the country was a "platform for the export of spyware".

"We must be aware that all member states have spyware even if they do not admit it," Sophie Intfield stressed, and suggested in her report "to stop the sale, possession, transfer and use" of these technologies.

She said that this ban could be revoked "depending on the country" if four conditions related to the control of the use of these programs are met, and also called for a common regulation and definition of the concept of "national security".

This report is supposed to be discussed and amended within the European Parliament´s Commission of Inquiry by the various political groups, and its final version must be submitted for a vote in the European Parliament in March 2023 or in June.