04 Oct, 2022

Europol must investigate illegitimate use of spyware against citizens

After the many revelations of some EU governments' abuse of spyware to surveil journalists, opposition politicians, NGOs and public officials over time, it is becoming increasingly clear that the illegitimate use of spyware is a European issue. Not only are EU citizens' fundamental rights, as well as public security, being breached, but there is also evidence of criminal acts. That is why the Renew Europe Group in the European Parliament has been pushing for Europol to be involved in the various ongoing investigations of wiretapping scandals.

Europol has been equipped with a new mandate this year, and Renew Europe pushed for the agency to have the power to request initiative for criminal investigations of crimes that fall within the remits of this new mandate. The spyware situation clearly meets the bar for Europol to get involved; at least three possible criminal acts (computer crime, corruption, racketeering and extortion) fall within its mandate.

At the initiative of Renew Europe, the European Parliament Committee of Inquiry to Investigate the use of Pegasus and Equivalent Surveillance Spyware sent a letter to the Executive Director of Europol, requesting the agency to issue a proposal for investigation to the EU Member States concerned.

Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP (D66, NL), rapporteur on the upcoming PEGA report, said:

"Spyware abuse has occurred all over Europe: this is a task for Europol. With every day that passes, the risk increases that evidence is being destroyed. It is crucial that Europol gets involved in order to secure the evidence and investigate the use of spyware in EU Member States. Fighting cybercrime, corruption and extortion fall squarely within the mandate of Europol and is in the interest of European democracy."

Dragoș Tudorache MEP (USR PLUS, RO), Renew Europe negotiator for the report on strengthening Europol's mandate, concluded:

“The potential for EU governments to abuse spyware is real. Using it against citizens for political gain is criminal, and Europol now has the legal tools to seek criminal investigations. It is also a duty towards democracy and public interest, and I expect Europol to take this duty very seriously.”

Read the full letter here or below.

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