• France's news in English

France unveils spying rules after terror attacks

The Local · 19 Mar 2015, 15:29

Published: 19 Mar 2015 15:29 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit
The measures have been criticised by rights groups and set the government up for potential clashes with Internet companies who are under public pressure to ensure privacy.
But in the wake of the deadly jihadist attacks in Paris in January, and coming a day after the Tunisian museum shootings that killed 21 people including two French tourists, the government said the measures were vital for effective policing.
"There cannot be a lawless zone in the digital space," said Prime Minister Manuel Valls.
"Because we often cannot predict the threat, the services must have the power to react quickly."
The new law allows authorities to spy on the digital and mobile communications of anyone linked to a "terrorist" enquiry without prior authorisation from a judge, and forces Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and phone companies to give up data upon request.
Intelligence services will have the right to place cameras and recording devices in private dwellings and install "keylogger" devices that record every key stroke on a targeted computer.
The authorities will be able to keep recordings for a month, and metadata for five years.
Valls sought to allay fears that the law was a French version of the "Patriot Act", which the United States used to authorise blanket spying powers after the attacks there on September 11, 2001.
Procedures will be "precisely defined", any request for data will have to be "justified" and decisions to begin surveillance will be taken personally by the prime minister and will be for a limited time.
"It in no way allows a generalised surveillance of citizens," said Valls.
- 'Need more investigators' -
France is one of the last Western countries to pass comprehensive legislation governing modern surveillance -- having till now relied on a law passed in the pre-Internet days of 1991.
Louis Caprioli, former counter-terrorism head at French intelligence agency DST, said he thought the measures were "proportionate" and that the judiciary had always worked closely with the intelligence services to ensure rights are protected.
But he said surveillance alone would not be enough to meet the threat.
"We need sufficient human resources and currently they are clearly insufficient," said Caprioli.
"We've added some technicians -- that's a good thing -- but we also need many more investigators on the ground."
Story continues below…
However, the bill has attracted criticism from lawyers, civil rights activists and industry experts.
The National Digital Council, a consultative body, took aim at the plans to sweep up huge amounts of metadata using automated systems.
"This approach has proved extremely inefficient in the United States despite astronomical costs," said Tristan Nitot, a member of the council.
The bill's presentation also coincided with criticism from Europe's top rights body over France's recent decision to block websites accused of condoning terrorism, warning that restricting liberties to fight extremism was a "serious mistake".
Despite the criticisms, polls show that the French public want to step up surveillance in the wake of the January attacks in and around Paris that  shook the country and left 17 dead.
An Ipsos survey for Europe 1 radio station and Le Monde daily at the end of January showed 71 percent of people were in favour of general bugging without the need to get a warrant from a judge.
Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available