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France To Step Up Online Surveillance

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Tuesday, February 24th, 2015


The French authorities are reportedly planning to step up online surveillance to spot terror related online chatter and combat homegrown extremism. Just days after the country suffered the worst terrorist attack on its soil, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls addressed the parliament and said that the government would soon introduce a new legislation that would provide intelligence services with all the legal powers to accomplish their mission.

While speaking in the Parliament, Mr Valls also said that the government would boost up staff at the domestic intelligence services so that they can cope up with the ever increasing number of terrorism related threats. Stressing the need to monitor the internet and social networks, the Prime Minister added that these mediums are increasingly being used by the extremists to recruit new members and propagate their messages. In the light of the Paris attacks, many EU governments have asked major ISPs to report and remove online content that could lead to such terror attacks.

Apart from increasing online surveillance, the French authorities are also seeking assistance from U.S. based tech firms to monitor online communications. The terrorist attacks in France have indeed put renewed pressure on the American technology firms to co-operate with the European authorities. The EU officials were in touch with many Silicon Valley firms like Google, Facebook and Twitter even before the terrorist attacks took place and the events in Paris have only served to highlight the urgency of the matter. Intelligence agencies from Europe are reportedly unhappy with the lack of co-operation from the American tech firms and they have been asking these companies to do their bit to identify terrorists and their communications. The tech firms, on the other hand, often resort to American laws to protect the privacy of their users.

While it may seem that France is ramping up domestic surveillance in response to the Paris attacks, in reality the authorities have been increasing their surveillance powers much before the events unfolded in the French capital. Just last year, the French government introduced a new legislation that made it incredibly easier for the intelligence agencies to label an individual as a target of surveillance. Yet another law which was introduced very recently grants sweeping powers to the government and makes it easy for the intelligence agencies to demand access to metadata from ISPs and phone companies.

Although the French government has made its intention to increase domestic surveillance absolutely clear, the exact wording or the content of the new legislation is still not known. Also, while the French government would like to pass the new law as soon as possible, European Union’s privacy laws may hinder the implementation of the legislation. And while there are fears that the new law would lead to increased surveillance across the board, the French Prime Minister said that he would see to it that the legislation is not used for mass surveillance of French citizens. If the new legislation does go through, French citizens must brace themselves for a dramatic increase in internet based surveillance.


February 24, 2015
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