French parliament due to approve new surveillance rules

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New rules to provide help for France’s intelligence services trying to prevent Islamist attacks are expected to be approved by parliament.

The law on intelligence-gathering comes nearly four months after three days of attacks in Paris in January, in which 17 people were killed.

The Socialist government says the law is needed to take account of changes in communications technology.

But critics say it is a dangerous extension of mass surveillance.

They argue that it gives too much power to the state and threatens the independence of the digital economy.

  • Define the purposes for which secret intelligence-gathering may be used
  • Set up a supervisory body, the National Commission for Control of Intelligence Techniques (CNCTR), with wider rules of operation
  • Authorise new methods, such as the bulk collection of metadata via internet providers

 

The government says it wants to bring modern surveillance techniques within the law rather than outside any system of control.

There will be a new watchdog to keep an eye on the intelligence services, which will have broader powers to look at classified material and handle complaints from the public.

But none of this has satisfied the critics, who range from civil liberties groups to major internet providers.

Their main worry is the way French intelligence agencies will be able to collect massive amounts of metadata from the internet – the detail of communications such as times and places rather than content.

Critics say this amounts to a mass intrusion of privacy, which in the hands of an unscrupulous government could have worrying consequences.

The law is expected to pass easily through parliament as – apart from some dissident voices – both the ruling Socialists and opposition centre-right are in favour.

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