You may recall how outraged Europeans are about the NSA’s violation of their human right to privacy? Well, guess what?
For all their indignation last summer, when the scope of the United States’ mass data collection began to be made public, the French are hardly innocents in the realm of electronic surveillance. Within days of the reports about the National Security Agency’s activities, it was revealed that French intelligence services operated a similar system, with similarly minimal oversight.
And last week, with little public debate, the legislature approved a law that critics feared would markedly expand electronic surveillance of French residents and businesses.
The provision, quietly passed as part of a routine military spending bill, defines the conditions under which intelligence agencies may gain access to or record telephone conversations, emails, Internet activity, personal location data and other electronic communications.
The law provides for no judicial oversight and allows electronic surveillance for a broad range of purposes, including “national security,” the protection of France’s “scientific and economic potential” and prevention of “terrorism” or “criminality.”
The government argues that the law, which does not take effect until 2015, does little to expand intelligence powers. “Rather, officials say, those powers have been in place for years, and the law creates rules where there had been none, notably with regard to real-time location tracking”.