Fury over US spying programme

BRUSSELS — European lawmakers threatened today to unpick data-sharing agreements with the United States, reacting furiously to reports that US authorities have accessed emails and other personal data from leading Internet companies.

US officials have confirmed the existence of a huge, secret US Internet spying programme, codenamed Prism, which according to documents leaked to the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper has given them access to data from firms such as Google, Facebook and Skype.

The news has forced European governments to explain whether they let Washington spy on their citizens or benefited from snooping that would be illegal at home.

In a heated debate in the European Parliament, lawmakers complained that for a decade they had yielded to US demands for access to European financial and travel data and said it was now time to re-examine the deals and to limit data access.

‘No to mass surveillance’

“We need to step back here and say clearly: mass surveillance is not what we want,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green lawmaker in charge of overhauling the European Union’s outdated data protection laws.

The European Parliament is considering a substantial overhaul of its almost 20-year-old data protection rules, which were cast without the Internet in mind. An initial vote in the European Parliament on the changes has been scheduled for July.

Lawmakers said the EU privacy overhaul and existing transatlantic data-sharing deals – the SWIFT agreement on sharing financial transaction data and an agreement on airline passenger name records – were now in jeopardy. (Reuters)

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