Monday

25th Sep 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.

Hungary and Poland defy EU authority

Hungary and Poland have said they "don't want a mixed population", amid a tug-of-war with the Commission on migrants and rule of law.

EU agency to fight election hacking

A new-model EU cybersecurity agency could help states defend their elections against "hybrid attacks", the Commission has said.

EU monitoring Cyprus passport sales

The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

EU monitoring Cyprus passport sales

The European Commission has said it is in a "dialogue" with Cyprus amid concerns on loopholes in its passport sale scheme.

News in Brief

  1. Merkel wins fourth term, exit polls say
  2. EU to hail 'aspirations' of former Soviet states
  3. UK says credit downgrade was wrong
  4. Dutch state appeals ban on taking air-polluting measures
  5. May proposes 2-year transition period after Brexit
  6. May to call on EU's 'sense of responsibility'
  7. Catalonia has 'contingency plans' for independence vote
  8. Last German polls confirm Merkel's lead

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU2017EEEU Finance Ministers Agreed to Develop New Digital Taxation Rules
  2. Mission of China to the EUGermany Stands Ready to Deepen Cooperation With China
  3. World VisionFirst Ever Young People Consultation to Discuss the Much Needed Peace in Europe
  4. European Jewish CongressGermany First Country to Adopt Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EEFour Tax Initiatives to Modernise the EU's Tax System
  6. Dialogue PlatformResponsibility in Practice: Gulen & Islamic Thought
  7. Counter BalanceHuman Rights Concerns Over EIB Loan to the Trans Anatolian Pipeline Project
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina Leads the Global Clean Energy Transition
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeFrom Baking Moulds to Oven Mitts, Silicones Are a Key Ingredient in Kitchens
  10. Martens CentreFor a New Europeanism: How to Put the Motto "Unity in Diversity" Into Practice
  11. Access MBAGet Ahead With an MBA Degree. Top MBA Event in Brussels
  12. Idealist QuarterlyIdealist Quarterly Event: Building Fearless Democracies With Gerald Hensel