France Adopts Extensive Surveillance Law

Oh, irony. Only a day after WikiLeaks revealed that the NSA has been spying on the past three French presidents as well as many French officials, France’s lower house adopted the very controversial surveillance law. According to politicians from all parties, France needs a comprehensive intelligence law following the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Yet, in many ways, this law is even broader than the Patriot Act.

Yesterday’s vote doesn’t come as a surprise as the lower house (Assemblée Nationale) already approved the law once. But the Government wanted to act quickly, and opted for an accelerated process for the upper house vote in order to make sure that the law would be voted before the Summer break.

Compared to the original law, not much changed. In particular, the most controversial part remains, the so-called black boxes. French Internet service providers and hosting companies will have to install a new system in their infrastructure to filter all traffic. An algorithm will detect suspicious activity, like if someone is watching videos related to terrorism, and then record everything you do online.

But it’s unclear whether this proprietary algorithm will also record things that aren’t directly related to terrorism. Nobody knows, except the new institution in charge of this process, which will most certainly work tightly with French intelligence services. Since the first vote, the new amendments tweaked the wording a bit, but the black boxes remain.

And then, there are the new WikiLeaks documents. While nobody knows for sure, it seems a bit suspicious that WikiLeaks along with its media partners Libération and Mediapart set the embargo time to the night before the final vote of this surveillance law. Many Government members had to make sure that there wasn’t any confusion between the spying revelations and the surveillance law.

But of course the two are related. Part of France’s surveillance law includes international surveillance. And this time there is no checks and balances in place to restrict surveillance of world leaders. In other words, France could be spying on American presidents just like the U.S. did. Many politicians were outraged by the new WikiLeaks documents. But it sounds like fake outrage now that France is ready to spy on world leaders as well.