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PRISM: Europe demands US response, as Council of Europe alerts member states to potential human rights abuses

12 Jun 2013
EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding speaking in Brussels

European justice commissioner Viviane Reding has written to US attorney general Eric Holder demanding more information on the PRISM data sharing scheme that has dominated the headlines over the last week.

Reding told Holder she had a number of key concerns over the scheme that she said, "could have grave adverse consequences for the fundamental rights of EU citizens."

The commissioner’s spokesperson, Mina Andreeva, said contents of the letter would not be made public but confirmed the letter was sent on the evening of 10 June, with Reding expecting answers by Friday when she meets Holder in Dublin.

These include concerns about how EU citizens' data is being accessed by the US government and whether there is any way members of the public can find out if their information was accessed by the US.

"The respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law are the foundations of the EU-US relationship. This common understanding has been, and must remain, the basis of co-operation between us in the area of justice,” Reding 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. This is of paramount importance for individuals and companies alike. "

Reding is also said to have asked Holder for information on the scope of PRISM and how often data on individuals is collected, or whether it is merely taken in bulk.

The Council of Europe is also taking steps to ensure user privacy in the wake of the PRISM scandal. The Council issued a declaration to the governments of its 47 member states, warning them of the potential abuse of human rights with certain digital tracking and surveillance technologies, and recalling the need to ensure their legitimate use.

The PRISM story has generated headlines across the world as some of the largest US tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft appear to have been forced to provide data from their systems to the US government, which has also been used by the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spy station.

The whistleblower who broke the story, a former CIA IT contractor, is currently holed up in Hong Kong and is likely to face an extradition request from the US government.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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