In France, is everything good to strengthen the surveillance arsenal?

It is a refrain repeatedly sung by our governments. The fight against terrorism often acts as the first verse, then comes the protection of minors, and sometimes the maintenance of order is added to the score. These three verses have been invited into the debates in recent weeks, to form a funny air that seems to say: respect for privacy is good, but in small doses. In France, the arsenal of technological surveillance is destined to expand, while on a European scale, the end-to-end encryption of our exchanges is also under debate.

Widespread surveillance at the Olympics

Next summer, Paris will host the Olympic Games. It was enough for the Ministry of the Interior to take the opportunity to try to strengthen its powers. The text of the law relating to the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games thus evokes, and from the first lines, the creation of an experimental framework from the promulgation of the law until March 31, 2025, allowing the use of intelligent video surveillance to ensure the safety of sporting, recreational or cultural events particularly exposed to risks. More concretely, the government wants to detect suspicious behavior before acts of crime or terrorism are committed.

And inevitably, teeth cringe on the left and among privacy protection associations, who see it “a new stage in the surveillance of the territory” After “the uninterrupted deployment of video surveillance cameras, the exact number of which is still not known” these last years. Especially since as soon as a little ballast is released, the authorities rush into the fault. Witness the final of the French Football Cup, between FC Nantes and Toulouse FC, and for which the Prefect of Police of Paris, Laurent Nunez, published an order authorizing the capture of images via drones flying over the pregnant.

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A measure justified by the presence of Emmanuel Macron in the spans of the stadium, and while his government suffered some pans of discomfort after the controversial pension reform. A device probably also reinforced after the fiasco which marred the final of the Champions League the previous year, at the same Stade de France, where many incidents took place around the stadium.

The smartphone at the heart of tensions

And each new bill seems to have its share of surveillance measures, that of orientation and programming of the Ministry of Justice even attacking our smartphones head-on, allowing “the remote activation of an electronic device without the knowledge or consent of its owner or possessor for the sole purpose of locating it in real time”. The twittosphere was as always packed, unless it is the communication around the bill that is failing?

In this specific case, however, mobile surveillance relates to investigations or the investigation relating to a crime or misdemeanor punishable by at least five years’ imprisonment, so far from concerning the average citizen. Nevertheless, the Council of the Paris Bar Association sees “a particularly serious breach of respect for private life which cannot be justified by the protection of public order”. And that the parliamentary debates should be intense as this reminds us of the intelligence law of 2015.

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The subject is particularly sensitive after the protests against pension reform, where there were many accounts of particular police pressure to obtain the consent of those in custody to inspect their phones. Because if this point can be disputed by a lawyer, remember that the refusal to provide your mobile unlocking code can constitute an offense in France.

Spain would like the end of mobile encryption

Finally, the news from Europe is not more reassuring. American media outlet Wired consulted a European Council document on the views of member countries on how to draft legislation to stop the dissemination of child sexual exploitation material (CSAM), or more simply to combat the child pornography in Europe. And here too, the security of our electronic devices seems to bother more than one, especially since there does not seem to be a miracle solution for identifying this prohibited content.

“Ideally, it would be desirable to legislatively prevent EU-based service providers from implementing end-to-end encryption”, so wrote Spanish representatives. Translation: Spain would like to put an end to the encryption of our mobile conversations in order to be able to spot the offenders more easily, probably considering that one has nothing to hide when one has nothing to be ashamed of. Fortunately, the country would have very little support from other members…

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