Categories: Surveillance

French National Assembly advances dangerous mass surveillance law

Mozilla is deeply concerned with last week’s overwhelming approval by the French National Assembly of the Projet de Loi Relatif au Renseignement, which intends to restructure the legal framework for French intelligence activities.

As currently written, the bill threatens the integrity of Internet infrastructure, user privacy, and data security. More specifically, the current bill authorizes France’s intelligence services to:

  • Pervasively monitor and store user communications, metadata, and Web activity about all users in France and abroad;
  • Force Internet service providers (and potentially other technology companies) to install “black boxes” in their networks to collect massive amounts of data and use algorithms to search for “suspicious patterns”;
  • Intercept user communications, including reading emails and tapping phones, without meaningful due process or oversight; and
  • compromise Internet infrastructure in France and extraterritorially.

We’ve previously voiced our concerns against this legislation, as did an impressive number of very diverse stakeholders ranging from Internet users, civil society groups, businesses, lawyers’ and magistrates’ unions, the French association of victims of terrorism, the French Digital Council, as well as administrative authorities such as the CNIL (French Data Protection authority), CNCDH (French National Consultative Committee for Human Rights). The legislators seem to have given little consideration to these myriad voices and, unfortunately, all of the proposed provisions we warned about in our previous post have been included in the bill that passed the National Assembly.

There is a stark discrepancy between the open and constructive discussions being held in international fora and France’s trajectory and disregard for the expressed concerns in these matters. For instance, while France was a founding member of the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of 26 governments committed to Internet freedom, the French government was disappointingly nowhere to be seen at the Coalition’s annual conference this week in Mongolia.

The Intelligence Bill now moves to the French Senate for consideration. We urge the French senators to uphold France’s international commitments, engage in a meaningful way with the concerns that have been raised by numerous stakeholders, and update the bill accordingly. All concerned actors can and should continue to speak out against the bill, for instance, through the Sous Surveillance campaign run by La Quadrature du Net and other civil society groups.

Finally, we call on France, as an international leader in upholding human rights around the world, to set a positive example for other governments rather than continuing on a course of eroding protections for users and undermining the open Internet.