Orange has been cooperating allegedly illegally for years with France’s main intelligence agency (the DGSE). According to a newly found report by Edward Snowden and an investigation by Le Monde, the DGSE was given access to all of Orange’s data (not just metadata).
Orange is the leading telecom company in France with more than 26 million clients. These clients have communicated with tens of millions of non-Orange clients. Nearly everyone in France is concerned by today’s revelation. No regulating agency has a say in this special relationship between France’s intelligence agencies and Orange. Data is shared with allies, such as the GCHQ in the U.K.
While the state still owns 27 percent of Orange, Orange has operated as a private company for years. Yet, when it comes to data collecting, it still works as if it was a state-owned company.
Orange employees help the DGSE create and develop new tools to collect and analyze data. Contrarily to PRISM, it’s not just an agreement between the government and big Internet companies, it’s an implicit “joint venture” that has been going on for around 30 years.
Both the government and the DGSE had no comment on the allegations. Orange CEO Stéphane Richard said that he wasn’t aware of what the DGSE was doing. He just granted access to Orange for employees of the DGSE in order to comply with the law. The three other main telecom companies denied the existence of similar programs with them.
Last July, Le Monde discovered that France has a PRISM-like program which collects thousands of trillions of metadata elements, collecting data on call history, recipient and sizes of text message, email subject etc. The program targets phone communications, emails and data from Internet giants, such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo.
The public outcry has been very moderated so far. These popular Internet services are still dominant. In other words, in France, convenience comes first, privacy second.
Update: An Orange spokesperson sent the following statement.
As is the case for all operators, Orange has relations with the French state’s services that are responsible for national security. This relationship takes place within a strict legal framework, under the responsibility of the state and appropriate legal control by judges.