Invasive 'French Patriot Act' Moves Forward, Spurring Privacy Concerns
The lower house of the French Parliament on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a measure authorizing expansive, unprecedented, and invasive surveillance of citizens and foreigners, with little judicial oversight.
The new spying powers, developed over the course of the last year, gained momentum in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris in January that killed 17 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in Paris.
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According to the Guardian, “despite opposition from green and hard-left MPs, the bill won the overwhelming backing of the majority of MPs from the Socialist and rightwing UMP parties, which said it was necessary to tackle the terrorist risk. The bill was passed in the national assembly by 438 votes to 86, with a handful of no votes from Socialist MPs.”
“Increased security does not have to come at the price of reduced privacy. And the threat of terrorism must not be used to justify the mass monitoring of every French internet user’s activity.”
—Carly Nyst, Privacy International
The law, which will now be considered by the French senate, would allow authorities to spy on the digital and mobile phone communications of anyone linked, even incidentally, to a suspected “terrorist”—without having to obtain a warrant.
In addition, it requires internet service providers and phone companies to give up data upon request and permits intelligence services to bug rooms, cars, or phone lines and to track keystrokes on computers. Both French citizens and foreigners could be tapped.
The bar for triggering such surveillance appears to be low. The New York Times reports:
As Gauri van Gulik, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, put it on Monday: “This bill would take France a step closer to a surveillance where nothing is secret except the surveillance itself. Even journalists, judges, politicians and people who have unwittingly come into contact with alleged suspects could be subject to invasive surveillance.”
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