Speech of Ms. Patricia McKenna, a member of the European Parliament from the Ireland Green Party, European Parliament, sitting of Thursday, 6 May, 1999.

The original of this speech is at http://www.europarl.eu.int/dg7/cre/pdf/05-06-99.pdf (see the pages 79-80 of this document)

4-330 McKenna (V).

The EU FBI telecommunications surveillance system is developing rapidly through two separate but very linked initiatives. First, the Council has proposed a new draft Council resolution to extend the 1995 requirements to cover new technologies, the Internet and satellite based communications. And, second, the Council is on the verge of agreeing a formula to provide a legal base for remote access to a satellite ground station in Italy through a new clause in the draft convention on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters.

This draft convention will provide the legal framework for the interception of all forms of telecommunications in the EU which is required to put into effect the EU FBI surveillance system. Both measures are expected to be agreed at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 27 May to 28 May.

What we are discussing here today , in the version discussed in the European Parliament, amends the 1995 requirements to include data on Internet users such as IP address, electronic address assigned to a party, account number and e-mail address (ENFOPOL 10951/98 REV 2)

That has actually been changed. What we are discussing now is not the actual wording, because what it says instead is: "IP address" and instead of "account number" it says "credit card number and e-mail adress".

It is very disturbing that an issue like this is being discussed on a Thursday evening when there are very few people here, the vote will be tomorrow morning, and there has been no proper debate within national parliaments on this issue. There has definitely been no debate within the Irish Parliament and I do not think there has been debate within many of the other parliaments.

If it is possible to monitor communications in such a manner you will be able to tell where a person is, when they are there, what sites they are consulting, what electronic messages they are sending, what electronic payments they are making, basically you will know everything about a person's private life.

The Greens believe that this is a serious attack on privacy and there are not sufficient safeguards regarding data protection and democratic control. This is something that was actually brought up by the Committee on Legal Affairs, which was very critical of this. It is unfortunate that the draftsperson of the opinion is not here because it is extremely important that this point is stressed.

Rules on telephone tapping are controlled, for example, at national level. That follows very proper procedures and authorisation. This proposal here basically ignores the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the provision on the protection of private life in Article 8. These are being overwritten here and interference by a public authority should be subject to extremely strict conditions. The view of the Committee on Legal Affairs should be taken on board.

The other point I wanted to make is that this whole issue was discussed in a procedure which was a written procedure, not in a meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers. This issue has not, as far as I am concerned, followed the proper democratic procedures. It has not been discussed in national parliaments. I also feel it is very sinister that this issue is put on the agenda on the Thursday night when everyone is going back to campaign for the election. There is absolutely nobody here to listen to what is going on. This is a grave step against people's right to privacy and right to freedom.

It has always been the case in Member States throughout the European Union and right around the world that oppressive legislation is brought in using the argument that we have to combat serious crime. For example one of the speakers mentioned paedophilia and things like that on the Internet. That does not mean that you overwrite people's basic right to privacy. That is what is going on here. There needs to be a lot more debate about this, not just here in the European Parliament but in national parliaments. I would like to know why these issues have been railroaded through in such a fashion without proper democratic control and proper public debate.

Go back to Cyber-Rights & Cyber-Liberties (UK) Interception of Communications pages.