• United States



by Paul Kerstein

France Plans to Increase Electronic Surveillance

Dec 01, 20052 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

The French National Assembly has voted in favor of a bill enlistingInternet cafes and free Wi-Fi networks in the “fight againstterrorism.” The bill orders operators of Internet cafe and freewireless access points to keep records of calls and connections made bycustomers in the same way telecommunications carriers and Internetservice providers must, and to make those records available to thepolice on demand.

The bill, voted Tuesday, now goes on the Senate where it will bediscussed in December. The government has used special parliamentaryrules to fast-track discussion of the bill.

Online activists reacted angrily to news of the vote.

The Ligue Odebi, a coalition of broadband users, accused the Ministerof the Interior of wanting to introduce surveillance of all FrenchInternet users, with no judicial oversight. The bill “opens the door toall sorts of digital errors and threats to private life,” the groupsaid on Wednesday.

Amendments to a number of existing laws are contained in the bill,including a law from January 1995 introducing new security measures,and one from June 2004 on the digital economy.

In addition to the new rules on data collection by Internet cafes thebill requires carriers bringing passengers to France to hand over datacontained in their reservation and boarding systems. Civil libertiescampaigners in the European Union have been campaigning since May 2004to stop the European Commission from forcing European airlines to handover their passenger data to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.The requirements in the French bill apply to airline passengers, andalso to rail and maritime passengers.

Other provisions contained in the bill include a widening of the use ofvideo surveillance, and the power to require the owners of privatevideo surveillance cameras to hand over images to the police. Inaddition, authorities would be able to order the managers of any publicspace — be it government office, museum or shop — to install a videosurveillance system. Failure to do so could result in a fine of US $175,000.

The bill would also give police powers to set up permanent, automatedvideo recognition systems for vehicles and their occupants in borderareas, or temporary systems at any time authorities request then inorder to maintain public order.

By Peter Sayer – IDG News Service (Paris Bureau)