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EU wants clarity from US on PRISM spying program

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viviane reding (EC)
viviane reding (EC)

Over the past week, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has insisted that the government's PRISM data collection program is only being used to target the communications of non-US citizens outside the country. That’s not very comforting for non-US citizens outside the country. So it should come as no surprise that the EU’s commissioner for justice and fundamental rights, Viviane Reding, has written to US Attorney General Eric Holder voicing concerns that the US government is spying on Europeans’ data.

"I would request that you provide me with explanations and clarifications on the Prism program"

Reuters has obtained a copy of the letter, part of which reportedly reads, "I would request that you provide me with explanations and clarifications on the PRISM program, other US programs involving data collection and search, and laws under which such programs may be authorized." The top EU justice official is also said to have asked whether EU citizens were targeted under PRISM, how much access to data US authorities have, and what people can do to appeal against being monitored.

Over the past year, Reding has been at the forefront of several debates surrounding technology and privacy, notably proposing "right to be forgotten" rules related to data retention to the European Parliament and leading the charge against Google’s contentious revisions to its privacy policy. In 2012, reports Reuters, Reding tried to introduce rules establishing legal barriers that would prevent foreign authorities from unilaterally accessing Europeans’ data. However, unnamed officials say that the proposals were watered down by members of the European Commission over concerns about straining EU-US relations. Reding and Holder are scheduled to meet in Dublin on Friday, and we can expect PRISM to figure prominently on the itinerary for discussion.