Alfred Sant calls out EU attitudes on spying software: ’It happens possibly within the EU’

The Labour MEP and former prime minister argues that people are quick to protest when spying happens against them, but fall silent when it affects people they consider unfriendly

Labour MEP Alfred Sant
Labour MEP Alfred Sant

Labour MEP and former prime minister Alfred Sant called out a double-standard in attitudes to spying operations during a plenary of the European Parliament on the use of the Pegasus Software by EU Member States against individuals, including MEPs. 

"We all know such spying happens between friendly governments, possibly including within the EU, and between unfriendlies," Sant said in his plenary speech. 

"We protest strong when it happens against us, less so when it affects those we see as unfriendly. None of us would wish to stop the development of cyber technologies that are making invasive spying so feasible."

Sand added that safeguards on spying operations quickly become outdated. "In the meantime, secret services will keep on spying on foreign governments and political parties, as will corporations."

The Pegasus Softward is a spyware created by NSO Group, an Israeli technology company founded in 2010. However, an international investigative journalism initiative found that over 1,000 individuals, including journalists, politicians and heads of state from 50 countries, were put under surveillance since 2016. 

During the plenary, many MEPs criticised the Council of the European Union and the European Commission for refusing to carry out a proper investigation into these cyber attacks.

Sant said that the main risk faced by the Pegasus committee in the European Parliament is that it will likely end up delivering "indignant and pious platitudes about high tech spying on governments, institutions and individuals".

The MEP stressed that identifying all actors who could have an interest in cyber spying and surveillance could help counteract invasive spying.

The next step would be to create an updated legal framework on a European basis that sets norms and limits, while enabling the deployment of investigations, the issuance of sanctions, and the funding of continuous research into surveillance systems and who runs them. 

"Consideration could also be given to how advanced democracies should update their legal approaches to regulate the cyber surveillance conducted by their own secret services," he said.

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