Categories: privacy

Mozilla speaks out on French intelligence bill

Since Snowden, we have seen increasing government conversations about the appropriate limits of surveillance; Some states have sought to restrict their own access to information and others have focused on restricting access from other governments. Generally, we like this focus and support these kinds of efforts. However, we are deeply concerned about recent reports about an intelligence bill currently being negotiated in France. The French government is rushing this proposal through Parliament, with little to no consultation of key stakeholders, and the actual provisions under discussion seem to be changing often.

The proposals that have been made public — including those allowing for bulk collection of metadata, automated algorithmic analysis of user communications, and efforts to weaken encryption — threaten Internet infrastructure, user privacy, and data security. Not only are we concerned about the content of these proposals, but given our own commitment to openness, we are equally concerned by the manner in which this legislation is being developed. Secrecy and closed door discussions rarely create strong legislation.

While the specific provisions continue to change in this fast-moving political environment, Mozilla joins numerous French institutions, businesses, and civil society organizations in expressing deep concern about the proposals being put forward by the French government. In particular, we would oppose any law that:

  • Allows for pervasive monitoring of user communications, metadata, and Web activity. We believe that this is an inherently disproportionate violation of user privacy and fractures the trust that underlies the open Internet;
  • Undermines the strength of or the ability to use encryption. The world depends on encryption to ensure the security and privacy of communications and commerce;
  • Fails to include adequate privacy, due process, transparency, and judicial oversight safeguards or permits unnecessary data retention.

We are particularly concerned about proposals to place so-called black boxes in the infrastructure of communications providers to conduct algorithmic surveillance. This proposal effectively forces companies to permit government monitoring of all of their users’ online activity for a secret set of “suspicious” patterns of behavior.

Mozilla urges the French government to have a fully informed debate around this proposed bill. In particular, we urge consideration of the technical impacts on Internet infrastructure and user security. At a time when privacy and security are increasingly recognized as mutually reinforcing, the French government seems to be pitting these values against each other, at the risk of diminishing both.