German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday (29 June) that the US National Security Agency (NSA) bugged EU offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks.
Europe “cannot negotiate over a big transatlantic market if there is the slightest doubt that our partners are carrying out spying activities on the offices of our negotiators,” she said in reference to the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
Waiting for answers
Reding called for the American authorities to “eliminate any such doubt swiftly”, saying she had asked the US for clarifications on the allegations and is “expecting a clear and transparent reply”.
But questions asked on earlier allegations arising from reported leaks remain unanswered.
Last month, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA has secret authority to snoop on e-mails and internet communications using a data-mining programme called Prism. Britain's GCHQ intelligence-gathering service was reportedly involved through its ‘Tempora’ system.
“I am still awaiting a written response to the questions I sent to Attorney General [Eric] Holder on 10 June,” Reding said in the interview.
“I wrote to on 25 June 2013, to [UK] Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs William Hague to express my concern about the recent media reports and ask for clarifications regarding the Tempora programme and its proportionality,” the Commission vice-president said.
“In view of the urgency of this situation, I asked Mr Hague to get back to me by the end of last week but have yet to receive a reply,” Reding added.
The Commission has asked about the scope of the UK’s programme, whether data collection is limited to individual cases and what legal redress is available for UK and EU citizens.
Reding said she hoped that a new Transatlantic group of data protection and security experts would be set up as soon as possible and meet this month.
“The challenge we are facing will not fade away as time goes by. Both in the EU and the US, we need to prove that governments and businesses that process personal data can be trusted,” Reding said.