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Government gets 'total' access to Orange data

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Government gets 'total' access to Orange data
French Telecom giant Orange gave the government free access to customer data, a report says. Photo: Philippe Huguen/AFP
10:40 CET+01:00
France's top external spying agency has had 'unchecked' access to customer communications at French telecom giant Orange for decades, according to a British document leaked by former American intelligence worker Edward Snowden.

In a document leaked from the UK Intelligence Agency GCHQ, it is claimed that the DGSE, France’s General Directorate for External Security, had total, indiscriminate and unchecked access to data from a French telecommunications operator, which Le Monde identifies as Orange, formerly France Télécom. 

In a report in French daily Le Monde published on Thursday it is claimed that the cooperation between Orange and the DGSE was carried out by “persons with secret security clearance” within the company and perpetuated for at least 30 years by “engineers shuttling between the two institutions”.

Orange, which is a 27 percent state-owned French company, has 226 million customers worldwide.

According to the document, the telecoms operator and DGSE “work together to improve the national capacity for intercepting communication networks and collaborate to break the encryption of data which flows through the network.”

Furthermore, this data was shared between foreign allies like GCHQ, according to Le Monde.

The revelations come just six months after Orange’s CEO Stéphane Richard said the company wanted to be exemplary in terms of the protection of the data of its clients, French paper Sud Ouest reported.

Responding to the allegations, a spokesperson from the telecoms operator told news agency Reuters: “As is the case with all operators, Orange has relations with the state’s services that are responsible for national security and the French people."

“These relations are in strict compliance with the law and under the responsibility of the state and [legal] control of judges,” the spokesperson added.

The DGSE meanwhile has refused to comment on allegations.

Sébastien Crozier, president of the CFE-CGC Orange union, told Le Monde that the actions of the DGSE were illegal and that Orange simply did not have “the means to resist”.

For its part, SFR, another major French telecommunications company, assured Le Monde that “legal obligations aside” it had “no contact with the DGSE”.

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