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Nessa Childers MEP contacts Commission to stress the security challenges that new technologies create

News item

Wednesday 12 Feb 2014

In the wake of the suspected bugging controversy at the offices of the Garda Ombudsman, Nessa Childers MEP has stressed the security challenges that rapidly-evolving new technologies create.

This morning, the independent politician wrote to the European Commission, asking for the matter to be immediately addressed.
‘These potential breaches to the internal security and communications systems of key public authorities are a more worrying consequence of emerging new technologies. Certainly, the issue now demands a robust EU-wide response,’ Ms Childers said.
Currently, the EU’s E-Privacy Directive regulates the likes of confidentiality of information, the processing of data, span and cookies.
Last year, some European Parliament staff mailboxes were compromised. The discovery meant the Parliament’s public Wi-Fi network in Strasbourg had to be temporarily shut down. At least 14 staff usernames and passwords were thought to have been stolen during the incident.
Ms Childers continued: ‘I understand that the exact details surrounding the potential Garda Ombudsman bugging are not yet clear, but I would add that I have the upmost respect for the independence of that office.
‘The Government in particular now needs to support the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission in its important work – and that includes carefully considering and examining the current suggestions of bugging.’
She added that she has today asked the Commission to confirm if mechanisms are already in place to deal with similar threats. She also wants confirmation that future attacks can be intercepted in advance.
More specifically, Ms Childers has further asked if the Commission plans to look into the alleged bugging at the Garda Ombudsman’s office.

Question to European Commission from Nessa Childers MEP – 12 February 2014

The Directive on Privacy and electronic communications (2002/58/EC) has shown to be a valuable asset in the protection of privacy in the online context.

The US National Security Agency’s PRISM case combined with the attacks on the European Parliament’s and Commission’s WI-FI networks last year was a wake-up call that showed the urgency in advancing a solid piece of legislation on data protection particularly in the sphere in electronic communications.

Recent reports in Ireland regarding the suspected bugging of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC),1 with technologies not commercially available raises issues of fundamental importance. This is a body that not only deals with personal but also national security data. Although the GSOC state that the databases were not compromised, the possible disclosure of sensitive information about those who have complained about a member of An Garda Síochána or those who have been complained about causes great concern as it is not evident as of yet, who was behind the alleged bugging.

These potential breaches to the internal security and communications systems of public authorities are a disturbing development and demands a robust EU wide response, especially where the technologies employed are not commercially available.

Given the recent threats to communication systems all across Europe which bring risks to our citizen’s personal data and privacy:

1) How does the Commission plan to address the challenges resulting from globalisation and the use of new technologies;

2) Are there mechanisms the Commission can use to deal with these new threats and to prevent an attack of this kind in future?

3) Are there any measures planned for the Commission to look into the above incident in Ireland and to protect Irish and European citizens from possible threats?

1The body responsible for receiving and dealing with all complaints made by members of the public concerning the conduct of members of the policing in Ireland