New French Law Risks Orwellian Surveillance State

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This draconian new law would bring to life a dystopian future that we never want to see. It would allow police to spy on anyone, almost everywhere, with a drone. This kind of surveillance is an enormous and unacceptable intrusion into people’s lives.

~ Marco Perolini Western Europe Researcher at Amnesty International

According to a Cyber News report, the French Senate approved a provision to a justice bill allowing law enforcement to secretly activate cameras and microphones on a suspect’s devices. The Senate calls it ‘The Global Security Bill.’

This sounds like the Breathalyzer and video bill in the US. The US will require all new cars after 2026 to have breathalyzers. They can also put a video in Americans’ cars. It’s unnecessary overkill to catch drunk drivers. The devices can stop cars dead in the middle of the road and they make mistakes.

The French wouldn’t be told of the device. It would allow government agencies to pinpoint the targets exact geolocation data. Of course, they say it’s to protect people. It will be used on suspects.

They say the update to the so-called “Keeper of the Seals” justice bill will only capture sound and images of suspects of certain crimes such as delinquency, organized crime, and terrorism.

SECURITY OVERKILL

No one believes that is a good idea or that it will be limited. Some politicians and civil rights advocates and organizations are objecting. The Observatory of Digital Freedoms has denounced such a “security overkill.” It says any subject would risk being turned into a potential snitch.

La Quadrature du Net, another French advocacy group promoting digital rights and freedoms, says investigators could theoretically activate all connected devices, such as televisions or baby monitors, remotely.

“If this text were definitively adopted, it would dangerously increase the possibilities of police intrusion by transforming all our IT tools into potential spies,” the group warned in a press release.

The Paris Bar, representing almost 30 000 lawyers, “deplored” the fact that the government didn’t consult them.

“This new possibility of remotely activating any electronic device constitutes a particularly serious breach of respect for privacy which cannot be justified by the protection of the public order,” said the Paris Bar in a statement.

LAWYER CLIENT PRIVILEGE

“In addition, the project does not prohibit listening to conversations between the lawyer and her client in the lawyer’s office – even if it is prohibited. This is an inadmissible breach of professional secrecy and the rights of defense.”

According to Amnesty International, “If passed, this law would also make it illegal for people to disseminate images of law enforcement officials for vague reasons, such as when images are deemed to threaten the ‘psychological integrity’ of police officers. It is vital that journalists and others are able to film police to ensure that they are held accountable for their actions.”

“It is also extremely worrying that members of parliament have refrained from explicitly excluding the processing of images by facial recognition software.”

Critics are urging French parliamentarians to dismiss the controversial provisions. The National Assembly, the more powerful lower house of the Parliament, hasn’t yet approved it.

Eric Dupond-Moretti, the justice minister, argues that all the necessary safeguards are in place. For example, every surveillance operation would have to be approved by a judge. [For now.]

This is a terrible idea similar to the Patriot Act in the United States. They’d be wise not to do it.

French law already allows warrentless government monitoring of phone calls and emails of terrorism suspects. So many Western countries are going in the wrong direction.


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