Data centre: are your personal details safe online? © BELGA/AFP/Scanpix/S.Lindholm 

Europe cannot allow Americans to spy on its citizens, which is why setting up new data protection legislation is so urgent, according to the majority of the EP's civil liberties committee. The committee discussed the Prism internet surveillance scandal with justice commissioner Viviane Reding on Wednesday. The commissioner said data protection rules should apply to all companies operating in the EU, regardless of where their headquarters was based.

Members of the civil liberties committee raised several concerns during the discussion.


"We cannot allow Americans to spy on EU citizens, even if it is a security matter," said Veronique Mathieu, a French member of the EPP group. Birgit Sippel, a German member of the S&D group, warned that data is not only used to fight terrorism, but also to control immigration.


"Our allies treat us not as friends but as suspects," said Sophie in 't Veld. The Dutch member of the ALDE group added that the EU needs to show "some backbone" and say where the limits are. She called for reintroducing safeguards for personal data transferred outside the EU.


Ms Reding said: "If we manage to set up the data protection legislation, it will set a gold standard." She met US attorney general Holder in Ireland on 14 June to discuss Prism. As a result the commissioner said a transatlantic group of experts would address concerns.


Many MEPs demanded to be kept informed about any work conducted by these expert groups. "Are those experts known already? When are they meeting?" asked Judith Sargentini, a Dutch Green MEP. Timothy Kirkhope, a British member of the ECR group, called for "a proper investigation" to "gather facts and details".