The European Parliament has approved plans to launch an investigation into the US's PRISM cyber snooping programme, following allegations that the National Security Agency (NSA) bugged and spied on government ministers in the region.
The investigation was approved by 483 votes to 98 with 65 abstentions. It will be overseen by the Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee, which will mount an "in-depth inquiry into the US surveillance programmes, including the bugging of EU premises."
The investigation will conclude by the end of the year, when the committee will present its findings to the European Parliament.
The news follows reports that US governments had been spying on European government and Commission officials as a part of their PRISM data collection campaign. Prior to the inquiry the EU Commission and Parliament demanded the US government reveal the extent of its spying campaign.
Since the PRISM scandal, reports have emerged claiming that several EU nation states including the UK, Sweden, the Netherlands and France are carrying out similar cyber snooping campaigns. The UK is believed to be one of the worst offenders, with reports suggesting the GCHQ is collecting vast reserves of data by tapping into global telecoms cables, under an operation called Tempora.
The Parliament announced plans to help protect citizens from programmes like PRISM. These included reforms to help protect whistleblowers, like ex-CIA analysts Edward Snowden who originally leaked the details of PRISM. The protection measures will include discussions about nations' power to suspend citizens' passports and bank accounts, and whether such practices are ethical.
The EC also indicated that it would be willing to reconsider Europe's trade relationship with the US if the nation continued to refuse to co-operate, with MPs saying such a scenario would be "unfortunate". At the time of publishing the US Department of Defense had not responded to V3's request for comment on the inquiry.