The French National Assembly has given the nod to a controversial bill, giving police unprecedented power to remotely access mobile devices of suspects under investigation. This legislation allows law enforcement to utilize the cameras, microphones, and GPS location systems embedded in smartphones and other devices for surveillance purposes, upon judicial approval. The latest amendment to the bill ensures its application is restrained to serious cases, for a maximum period of six months, and exempting certain “sensitive professions” such as journalists and lawyers, as reported by Le Monde. The use of geolocation is limited to crimes punishable by at least five years imprisonment.
A prior version of the legislation had already won Senate approval, but due to the latest amendments, it requires a fresh endorsement from the upper house before it can be enacted into law.
This legislation has caused a stir amongst civil liberties advocates, such as the digital rights organization, La Quadrature du Net. The group has highlighted the possible abuse of power as the bill does not clearly define what constitutes a serious crime, thereby raising concerns that the French authorities might misuse the power to target non-violent activists, including environmentalists. They note that historically, such expansive security policies tend to trickle down to less serious crimes. The organization also points out that this could lead to the exploitation of security flaws by police, instead of informing manufacturers to fix these vulnerabilities.
Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti has defended the legislation, claiming it would only be utilized in a limited number of cases annually, thus distancing the practice from the dystopian surveillance state depicted in George Orwell’s 1984. The minister argues the measures are vital for saving lives.
The approval of this bill comes amidst a growing global concern regarding government surveillance through devices. The NSO Group, known for their Pegasus spyware, has been under scrutiny for alleged misuse of their technology to spy on dissidents, activists, and politicians. Despite the French bill’s more narrow scope, it doesn’t provide much comfort for those apprehensive about potential government overreach.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about French Surveillance Bill
What does the new French surveillance bill allow?
The new French surveillance bill permits law enforcement to remotely access the cameras, microphones, and GPS location systems on mobile devices of individuals under investigation, following judicial approval.
Which professions are exempt from the surveillance bill?
The surveillance bill protects certain “sensitive professions” from this practice, including journalists and lawyers, according to the latest amendment.
How long can the surveillance power be used under this bill?
The bill restricts the use of surveillance powers to serious cases only, and for a maximum duration of six months.
Who has expressed concern over the new French surveillance bill?
Digital rights organization La Quadrature du Net, among other civil liberties advocates, has raised concerns about potential abuse of power and the possible misuse of this legislation against non-violent activists.
What’s the stance of the French Justice Minister on this bill?
Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti has defended the legislation, stating it will only be utilized in a limited number of serious cases annually and arguing that the measures are crucial for saving lives.
What are the global concerns about device surveillance?
There is a growing global apprehension about government surveillance through devices. For instance, NSO Group, known for their Pegasus spyware, has faced backlash over alleged misuse of their technology to spy on dissidents, activists, and even politicians.