The New York Times: “On Wednesday, the French Senate voted to adopt a law giving government broad powers to monitor just about anything a person in France does on a cellphone or through an Internet connection. The timing of this move is troubling, given the French government’s outrage in October over revelations of spying on the French by the United States through the National Security Agency. Despite assurances from the French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, that adequate oversight is built into the new law, in the post-Snowden era, opponents of the bill have reason to be skeptical.
Article 13 of the sweeping new Military Programming Law permits police and security forces to request telephone and Internet data and activity, including location information, “in real time,” without a judge’s authorization. It also extends government surveillance to any conduct that jeopardizes the “scientific or economic potential of France.” Presumably this means industrial espionage, but the language is disturbingly vague. The new law also grants the Ministries of Economy and Finance access to citizens’ data and activity.
The National Commission on Information Technology and Freedom, or CNIL — supposedly the main government watchdog over the new surveillance protocol — was not consulted in the drafting of Article 13.
In addition to concerns about citizens’ rights, service providers worry the law will hurt their businesses. Two powerful business lobbies — one of which counts Skype, AOL and Google as members — joined to express fears that the new law will cause customers to lose confidence that their data are secure. While French Senate passage of the bill — by a 164-to-146 vote — makes it final, it is possible for 60 deputies and senators to request a review by the Constitutional Council. France’s Green Party, which opposed the bill, has vowed to gather the support to do just that.
Article 13 sets a dangerous precedent for the expansion of citizen surveillance. And it fails to regulate in a transparent manner the vast amount of data sharing going on between technology service providers, the French national security apparatus and those of other governments. To dispel citizen and industry concerns, the French government should support a review of Article 13 by the Constitutional Council and ask the CNIL to review the law as well.”