Thursday

27th Jul 2017

French court backs mass surveillance

  • France's new surveillance act gives the prime minister's office unprecedented powers without judicial oversight (Photo: Moyan Brenn)

The constitutional court in France on Thursday (23 July) broadly approved a new law that gives the state wide-sweeping surveillance powers.

First proposed in March in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, the Surveillance Act allows French intelligence agencies to spy on citizens with almost complete impunity.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“From now on, France has a security framework against terrorism that respects liberties. It's decisive progress”, said French prime minister Manuel Valls in a tweet.

Dubbed by opponents as the French Big Brother, the act empowers intelligence agencies - under the authority of the prime minister’s office - to monitor anyone.

Security officials will be able to hack people’s computers as a last resort.

They will be able to use a so-called “IMSI Catcher”, which picks up and records all text messages, phone calls, and Internet communication in a given area. This includes people not suspected of any crime.

Wireless phone taps, hidden cameras and microphones, and forcing Internet providers to monitor suspicious behaviour using special "black boxes" are also in store.

A warrant or any other type of court approval is not needed.

A dedicated special advisory group made up of magistrates, MPs, and senators will instead be consulted.

But the group, named the National Commission for the Control of Intelligence Techniques, can only issue non-binding recommendations.

The French constitutional court, for its part, opposed an article that would have allowed authorities to skip the advisory group in emergency situations.

The court described the article as “manifestly disproportionate to the right to privacy”.

Another setting up an international surveillance scheme was also rejected because the conditions for its use were not well enough defined.

A third, more minor, article dealt with how the advisory group would be funded.

Despite opposition from rights groups and a petition signed by over 100,000 people, MPs passed the bill into law in late June anyway.

French president Francois Hollande then asked the constitutional court to review it.

The act has drawn parallels to the bulk collection of telephone records by the US National Security Agency.

Rights groups in France complain it undermines fundamental rights, widens the scope of extra-judicial surveillance, and lacks any real oversight.

They say stripping away standard judicial oversight opens the door for abuse by the state and may undermine the confidentiality of sources used by journalists and human rights groups.

French advocacy rights group, La Quadrature du Net, also said it is ready to challenge the act at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

"Mass surveillance is part of an intolerable and oppressive machine, which is by nature the seed of totalitarianism”, said Jeremie Zimmermann, co-founder of the group.

EU Commission unmoved by Polish president's veto

Andrzej Duda decided to veto two of the controversial draft laws, which would put the judiciary under political control, but the EU executive is awaiting details before deciding on whether to launch legal probes on Wednesday.

News in Brief

  1. Werner Hoyer re-appointed as EU investment bank chief
  2. Spanish PM denies knowledge of party corruption
  3. France 'routinely' abuses migrants, says NGO
  4. Swedish government rocked by data scandal
  5. Member states relocate 3,000 migrants in June
  6. Top EU jurist says Malta's finch-trapping against EU law
  7. EU judges rule to keep Hamas funds frozen
  8. EU court rejects passenger data deal with Canada

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  2. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  3. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  5. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  6. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference
  7. ECPAFood waste in the field can double without crop protection. #WithOrWithout #pesticides
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  9. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  10. Martens CentreWeeding out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  11. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  12. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug

Latest News

  1. Corbyn re-opens Labour's single market wound
  2. Visegrad lobby makes food quality an EU issue
  3. EU court could dismiss national borders in cyberspace
  4. Confusion swirls around Macron's Libya 'hotspots'
  5. Insults fly after EU ultimatum to Poland
  6. UK requests EU migration study, 13 months after Brexit vote
  7. EU defends airline data-sharing after court ruling
  8. Stop blaming Trump for Poland’s democratic crisis