France insists it’s not working on a French version of the U.S. Patriot Act that would give the government massive additional surveillance powers, The Verge reports. But the French government is definitely interested in passing a law that would give it more freedom to collect information in its fight against terrorism, even if local businesses and human rights organizations are criticizing the initiative.
The new law, which prime minister Manuel Valls is rushing through Parliament, would give local spy agencies even more powers. The government would be allowed to spy on emails and calls of suspected terrorists and their families and contacts without receiving authorization from a judge.
Furthermore, telecommunications and Internet companies would have to install additional hardware that would be able to register and record metadata in order to flag suspicious patterns, and then provide that data to intelligence agencies. While proponents say the data will remain anonymous and it wouldn’t affect most users, it’s not clear what constitutes terrorism-related behavior.
Other surveillance mechanisms, such as installing cameras and bugs in the homes of suspects and installing keyloggers on computers would also be easier under the new law.
Meanwhile, Valls said more than once that the new law isn’t the French version of the U.S. Patriot act that was passed after 9/11.
“This is by no means an implementation of exceptional measures, nor the widespread surveillance of citizens,” the prime minister told reporters last month when announcing the new initiative. “The bill makes clear that this enhanced monitoring will only concern terrorist communications, it demonstrates that there will be no mass surveillance… this is not a French Patriot Act.”
The idea is to hopefully to prevent future Charlie Hebdo-like tragedies, though there are plenty of people who disagree with this approach.
Local businesses including French web hosting companies and privacy advocates like Privacy International and Amnesty International are already criticizing the proposed law for different reasons. Local companies say the new law would impact business, while human rights groups are worried about the power the French government would get, and the lack of proper oversight.
France is not the only country revising its terrorism-related laws after the Charlie Hebdo attack. The U.K. government also wants to be able to conduct similar spying operations on terrorism suspects.