French spy bill raises freedom concerns

French spy bill to increase power of spies hits parliament, raises concerns

Updated Jul 28, 2015

French civil liberties unions are concerned that a new bill being discussed in the French parliament Monday violates individual’s right to privacy.

The new legislation, proposed after the armed attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher market which killed 17 in March, would see the powers granted to intelligence operatives increased.

If the parliament passes the law onto a signing stage, French spies would be given increased ability to bug and track individuals they find suspicious while internet companies would be forced to monitor activity deemed as “suspicious.”

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve told local media outlets that "The measures proposed are not aimed at installing generalized surveillance," and that they would offer protection to French citizens.

Seven Internet firms also protested the bill stating that if made into a law would cause distrust with potential investors.

"The draft bill destroys freedoms, but it is also anti-economic and essentially inefficient for the objective it sets out," read a statement issued by the firms.

The bill has also been criticized by the National Digital Council (NDC), which deemed that the "mass surveillance" action was akin to the “Patriot Act” in the U.S.

The group stated that similar legislation in the U.S. has "been shown to be extremely inefficient in the United States."

It further warned that the proposed legislation was "unsuited to the challenges of countering terrorist recruitment" and "does not provide sufficient guarantees in terms of freedoms."

The bill would see France install black boxes on internet distribution points to monitor suspicious activity, while agents would be given permission to install keylogging software, cameras and microphones in personal residences.

French lawyers also expressed the lack of legality in the new legislation’s intrusive nature.

"By legalizing mass surveillance methods without providing the necessary privacy protection guarantees, this bill has a devastating impact on civil liberties," a statement by the Union of French Union of Lawyers read.

In February, the French government ordered Twitter, Google and Facebook to comply with demands of police forces, removing terror related content from the sites and providing information about suspected users.