France launches probe into US spy programme

French prosecutors are investigating alleged US spying under the PRISM surveillance programme following complaints by two human rights groups, sources close to the case said Wednesday.

They launched an investigation on July 16 into fraudulent access to personal data and personal correspondence following complaints by the International Federation of Human Rights and the League of Human Rights, the sources said.

The complaint also targets the role played by Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Paltak, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, AOL and Apple in the alleged espionage.

PRISM is said to give the US National Security Agency and FBI easy access to the systems of nine of the world's top Internet companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

A lawyer for the two groups, Emmanuel Daoud, said they wanted to determine whether these firms had cooperated with US intelligence gathering and made their servers available to the FBI and NSA.

If the companies had done so, they could face criminal charges in France for violating data protection and privacy rules, he said.

There has been deep concern in Europe about the alleged abuses of privacy.

Documents leaked by former CIA worker Edward Snowden suggest that Britain's electronic eavesdropping centre GCHQ has had access to a US Internet-monitoring programme since at least June 2010.

jac-ng/ach/cc