Privacy watchdog finds 92 ‘targets’ in Greek wiretapping scandal

Greece’s independent Data Protection Authority announced on Thursday that more than 350 SMS related to the Predator spyware programme had been sent, and 92 people have been spotted as targets, triggering a strong reaction from the opposition as the so-called “Greek Watergate” remains in the dark, according to Euractiv.

The Greek wiretapping scandal – which saw politicians, journalists and businessmen having their phones bugged – has been shaking politics in the Mediterranean country for more than a year, but still, no one has been held accountable.

The conservative government denies any involvement with Predator spyware and insists that it is aware only of surveillance under the legal channels of secret services.

The official government line is that any illegal spyware activity occurs from “individuals to individuals.”

When the scandal erupted in July 2022, the head of the Greek prime minister’s office and the secret services’ chief resigned.

On Thursday, Greece’s privacy watchdog issued a statement which followed the decision of the US Commerce Department to add Greek firm Intellexa, which allegedly trades Predator, to its economic trade blacklist.

In its detailed statement, the Authority stressed that it found that more than 350 SMS have been sent – some of them through the state’s electronic platform for vaccination during the pandemic – to potential Predator “targets”.

The Authority explained that it has so far managed to identify 92 targets. According to press reports, one of them was Artemis Seaford, a former Facebook manager based in Greece.

The opposition Syriza party lashed out against the government, accusing it of remaining silent over a scandal damaging the country’s image worldwide.

“It is proven in the most official way that it was a coordinated operation of systematic interception of personal data of dozens of targets,” Syriza said in a statement.

Last week, investigative website Inside Story revealed information suggesting that Intellexa worked closely with Greek secret services as well as the office of the Greek PM.

European Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand did not want to comment on the press report but said the executive is closely following the developments.

“The Commission has expressed an apparent position on the use of spyware and also taken action,” he told Euractiv.

Wigand said on 21 December, the EU executive sent letters to all member states requesting information about the use of spyware by national authorities and the legal framework governing such use.

“On the basis of the replies, we are currently working on a mapping of the situation in member states and examining the interplay with EU law. The Commission has also covered the use of spyware, where relevant, in the 2023 Rule of Law Report,” he noted.

“We have further followed the work of the PEGA Committee very closely. Based on the report and the recommendations, as well as our fact-gathering exercise, we will decide on the most appropriate way forward,” he concluded.