In France, lawmakers have recently passed a justice reform bill that grants the police the legal authority to conduct surveillance on suspects by remotely activating cameras, microphones, and GPS location features on their smartphones and other connected devices.
The newly passed legislation allows for the remote recording of audio and visual evidence of individuals involved in serious crimes, including terrorism and organized crime. A prominent French anti-censorship and surveillance group called La Quadrature du Net (LQDN) has expressed significant concerns about the law, citing potential infringements on fundamental liberties and the violation of people’s right to privacy. They argue that the proposal is heavy-handed and excessive.
To address some of these concerns, lawmakers supporting French President Emmanuel Macron pushed for an amendment that restricts remote surveillance to cases justified by the nature and severity of the crime, and for a strictly proportional duration.
Additionally, a judge’s approval is required for the authorities to employ remote spying measures, and the surveillance period can last up to six months. Certain individuals such as doctors, journalists, lawyers, judges, and French legislators are exempted from surveillance under this law.
Justice Minister Dupond-Moretti defends the legislation, stating that it is far from the totalitarianism depicted in George Orwell’s novel “1984.” He argues that the new law will save lives, emphasizing the importance of its potential impact on public safety.
France has been implementing stricter surveillance laws since a series of devastating terrorist attacks occurred in Paris in November 2015. However, critics contend that these measures have progressively eroded human rights, drawing comparisons to the controversial Patriot Act enacted in the United States after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Despite objections from civil liberties groups, the French National Assembly passed the justice reform bill, including the surveillance measures, with a significant majority vote of 80 to 24.