Belgium Urges EU to Push Social Media for Data

     (CN) — Belgium’s justice minister on Monday called on EU lawmakers to force social media to turn over electronic data to prevent future terror attacks like those in Brussels last month.
     While filling in the European Parliament’s justice and security committee about the latest on the investigation into the attacks that killed 32 and injured over 300 victims at the airport and a subway station in Brussels on March 22, Justice Minister Koen Geens refuted claims “by the international press” that Belgium hadn’t done enough to prevent the attacks.
     “Nobody can say that Belgium turned a blind eye to foreign terrorist fighters,” Geens said.
     Noting reforms of the last year both at the EU level and within Belgium, Geens said more had to be done at the EU level: the exchange of criminal records to also include those of third-country nationals, and help gathering of mountains of evidence into concrete judicial investigations.
     He also called on parliament to pressure social media providers to turn over data that could help investigators prevent future terror attacks.
     “We depend more and more on evidence related to electronic communications not only to gather evidence but to prevent attacks,” Geens said, noting that the terrorists responsible for the attacks in Brussels and last year in Paris had used Viber, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter to communicate with each other and the Islamic State
     “I’m not talking about mass surveillance, but about targeted access to specific communications and data,” Geens said. “No EU country can solve this alone. The EU needs to step in urgently to coordinate national responses and a discussion with the providers as well as a discussion with third countries where the providers are based.”
     He added, “We can solve this issue while maintaining a high level of protection of personal data. But we need an EU approach.”
     He also called for cooperation between the intelligence services and exchange of information between member states, and urged lawmakers to stop pushing for a central single EU version of the CIA.
     “The debate on a central European intelligence agency is simply not relevant at the moment, given the state of the treaties and the opposition of the big member states, so I don’t see the point — although I regret it,” Geens said.

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