MEP wants more control on espionage software

Bart Groothuis, a member of the European Parliament on behalf of the VVD, wants stricter controls in Europe for the misuse of spy software. He recognizes that there are advantages to such programs, but we must not lose sight of the possibility that governments and other parties misuse this software. That is why he advocates a European variant of the Canadian Citizen Lab.

Groothuis tells this in an interview with BNR.

This is what you need to know about Pegasus

Pegasus, eavesdropping software from the NSO Group, was in the spotlight last summer. Several international news organizations revealed that they had obtained a list containing more than 50,000 phone numbers. The list included the names of hundreds of critical journalists, activists, human rights lawyers, businessmen, politicians and security officials.

According to the media and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, these people were spied on via Pegasus between early 2016 and June 2021. French President Emmanuel Macron and the King of Morocco Mohammed VI, among others, are said to have been spied on with the software of the Israeli cybersecurity company. This also applies to Charles Michel, President of the European Council and the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and Egypt.

The NSO Group has always denied that its software is used for large-scale wiretapping. Our technologies are used daily to take down paedophile and drug and sex traffickers networks, locate missing and kidnapped children, locate survivors trapped under collapsed buildings and protect the airspace from disruptive penetration by dangerous drones. the company said in a press statement.

MEP wants ‘European Citizen Lab’

The organization that got the ball rolling was the Canadian Citizen Lab, a research division of the University of Toronto. That examined dozens of smartphones of leading figures and found the spy software of the NSO Group. For that reason, prominent members of the Democratic party asked whether President Biden wanted to take action against the company.

Now that it has recently emerged that members of the Polish opposition parties have been bugged with Pegasus, Bart Groothuis has had enough. The liberal MEP argues in an interview with BNR for a ‘European Citizen Lab’. It must ensure that espionage software is not misused by governments and other parties.

“We have to make sure we can do an investigation. And that you can come up with evidence. And that’s what’s missing now. If you leave it to governments or companies, I think that’s not enough. A Citizen Lab should also be set up in Europe,” says the VVD member.

‘Deep democratic crisis’

Groothuis does not believe that eavesdropping software should be banned. But caution is advised. “There are very legitimate targets for governments that you sometimes want to look at, especially now that we are moving towards a 100 per cent encrypted internet. But what has happened now is, of course, a major scandal. A deep democratic crisis. And we have to do something about that,” said the MEP.

Groothuis wanted to travel to Israel to talk about the wiretapping scandal with the Polish opposition members. “They want to talk about everything except this topic. It’s too sensitive. Nevertheless, I contacted the Israeli ambassador in Brussels and had in-depth conversations. You have to make it clear on all sides that this is serious business. And that’s what I did,” said the liberal.

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