EU justice chief seeks answers on Prism

Viviane Reding expresses ‘serious concern’ over US accessing and processing data of EU citizens

European Union Commissioner Viviane Reding, who has asked US Attorney General Eric Holder for more information on the US surveillance program Prism, and its consequences for the rights of EU citizens.

European Union Commissioner Viviane Reding, who has asked US Attorney General Eric Holder for more information on the US surveillance program Prism, and its consequences for the rights of EU citizens.

 

European Union commissioner Viviane Reding has asked US Attorney General Eric Holder for more information on the US surveillance program Prism and its consequences for the rights of EU citizens.

“Given the gravity of the situation and the serious concerns expressed in public opinion on this side of the Atlantic, you will understand that I will expect swift and concrete answers to these questions,” Ms Reding said, according to a copy of a June 10 letter to Mr Holder obtained by Bloomberg News.

Ms Reding, the European commissioner for justice, said she has serious concerns about reports that the US is accessing and processing data of EU citizens who are using US online service providers.

A former US national security contractor, Edward Snowden, disclosed the secret program to collect a vast trove of domestic telephone and international Internet data.

In her letter, Ms Reding said the US should use existing formal channels for the exchange of information to prevent or investigate criminal activity.

Direct access by US law enforcement to data of EU citizens on US servers should be excluded other than in “clearly defined, exceptional and judicially reviewable situations,” she said.

“Trust that the rule of law will be respected is also essential to the stability and growth of the digital economy, including transatlantic business,” Ms Reding said.

“It is of paramount importance for individuals and companies alike.”

The once-secret Prism program that Mr Snowden revealed and that is now acknowledged by the US director of national intelligence, collected e-mails and other data from nine companies including Google, Microsoft and Apple, according to National Security Agency slides Mr Snowden provided to the Guardian and Washington Post.

Reding asked Mr Holder to explain at a June 14 meeting whether the Prism program is aimed at EU citizens, whether the data collected is limited to specific and individual cases, what the scope of the program is, and what avenues are available to challenge access to the data, among other questions.

Bloomberg