France says it was no victim of Prism

The_Lives_of_Others.jpg

The French Ministry for Foreign Affairs has told EURACTIV that its diplomatic network system is protected and secure, and could not have been a target for the NSA. Human rights organisations have however filed complaints against Apple, Google and Facebook.

The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied allegations by the German magazine Der Spiegel that France was a target of the NSA’s Prism program in 2010.

According to the magazine, the NSA was interested in the network system that connects the French diplomatic representations to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A spokesperson for the ministry told EURACTIV that the French “diplomatic information system is secure and protected. Print screens or phishing emails coming from 'diplomatie.gouv.fr' do not allow for an intrusion into secure applications”.

In mid-July, two human rights organisations – the FIDH and the LDH – filed a complaint against persons unknown for unlawful collection of personal data, invasion of privacy and electronic correspondence. Prosecutors in Paris have opened an investigation.

Patrick Baudouin, the lawyer who represents the two organisations, said that “it seems difficult to open an investigation against the NSA but we hope that the level of responsibility of big companies like Google, Facebook or Apple will be determined.”

While more and more complaints are being filed at national level, such as in Belgium or Spain, the European Commission has also shown interest in the subject, after the press revealed that the NSA had spied on EU diplomatic representations in Washington, New York, and also Brussels. The commissioner in charge of justice, Viviane Reding, demanded clarification.

Brussels wants answers from Washington

The French Foreign Ministry said the Commission had opened a debate with Washington and that France “would not accept any leveling down on that matter”.

The Article 29 working party, a European advisory group made up of representatives from data protection authorities of each EU member state, has started an independent assessment of the Prism program. Its conclusions are expected at the end of this month.

“The Prism program was a wake-up call and Europe is tackling it. The European reform on data protection proposed by the Commission in January 2012 is our legal response to Prism,” the Commission said. This reform should be adopted in the spring of 2014 at the latest.

While the EU and USA are negotiating a free trade agreement, many have highlighted the need to obtain guarantees on data protection. Some, like Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit, go even further, and suggest that the negotiations be suspended if the spying activities are confirmed.

Europeans have reacted angrily to allegations that a US intelligence agency had tapped the servers of internet companies for personal data, saying such activity confirmed their fears about American Web giants' reach and showed that tighter regulations were needed just as the EU and US are about to launch trade talks.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.