The use of spyware by authorities in EU countries should be significantly restricted. There is a need for investigation into spyware programs like Pegasus to better ensure the safety of EU citizens. Clear frameworks must be established for the use of spyware, and member states should not abuse its use. These were the determinations made by the European Parliament in a resolution on Thursday.
In recent years, there have been frequent abuses regarding spyware, which are programs that authorities can use to spy on individuals suspected of criminal activities. Monitoring activities must comply with regulations, but several EU countries have disregarded these rules and committed violations. As a result, the rights and freedoms of EU citizens have been compromised.
To prevent further occurrences, the European Parliament calls for stricter rules and enforcement regarding spyware. Credible investigations should also be conducted to shed light on these programs. Members of the European Parliament believe that spyware should only be used by law enforcement agencies in exceptional cases against suspects.
Previously, suspects of criminal activities and their lawyers have been subjected to surveillance through spyware. The well-known program Pegasus, for instance, was used to infiltrate individuals’ phones, enabling complete access and continuous monitoring, thereby severely infringing on their privacy.
Poland, Hungary, Spain, Greece, and Cyprus have employed spyware to surveil their citizens. Such programs can also be used to track critics or opponents of governments. The adopted resolution includes specific measures against these countries to prevent the recurrence of spyware scandals.
The European Court of Human Rights has issued judgments against Poland and Hungary regarding spyware. The European Parliament urges them to implement these judgments. They should only use spyware with permission from an independent judge, conduct investigations into any abuses, and guarantee that citizens have access to legal recourse and other means to protect themselves if necessary.
Greece has weakened “institutional and legal safeguards,” allowing spyware to proliferate. Athens must rebuild and strengthen these safeguards as prescribed by the Parliament. The Greek government must also respect the independence of the Greek authority for privacy and communication security. In Cyprus, the government must revoke all instances of spyware use that violate EU regulations, and in Spain, the government must initiate a thorough, independent, and meaningful investigation into its use of spyware.
Member of the European Parliament, Sophie in ‘t Veld (D66), refers to a “democracy crisis” caused by spyware. She states that the EU has long been absent, but finally, intervention is taking place. She urges the European Commission to actively monitor the situation. She expects to see progress on the adopted package before summer. Jeroen Lenaers from the Christian Democratic Appeal (CDA) also emphasizes the need for member states to comply with this and other EU regulations, including the principles of proportionality, necessity, legality, and legitimacy.