Tuesday, April 23, 2024

France passes bill to allow police remotely activate phone camera, microphone, spy on people

A bill that would allow police in France to spy on suspects by remotely activating cameras, microphone including GPS of their phones has been passed.

• July 6, 2023
French police and people using phone
French police and people using phone

A bill that would allow police in France to spy on suspects by remotely activating cameras, microphone including GPS of their phones has been passed. 

The bill allows the geolocation of crime suspects, covering other devices like laptops, cars and connected devices, just as it could be remotely activated to record sound and images of people suspected of terror offences, as well as delinquency and organised crime.

Although, the spying provision, which is part of a wider “justice reform bill”, has been attacked by the left and rights defenders as an authoritarian snoopers’ charter. 

The provisions “raise serious concerns over infringements of fundamental liberties,” stated a French advocacy group promoting digital rights and freedoms, La Quadrature du Net.

The group cited the “right to security, right to a private life and to private correspondence” and “the right to come and go freely,” specifically called the proposal a part of a “slide into heavy-handed security.”

But lawmakers agreed to the bill late Wednesday as Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti insisted the bill would affect only “dozens of cases a year.”

During the debate on Wednesday, the members of parliament in the camp of President Emmanuel Macron inserted an amendment limiting the use of remote spying to “when justified by the nature and seriousness of the crime” and “for a strictly proportional duration.” They noted that a judge must approve any use of the provision, while the total duration of the surveillance cannot exceed six months.

They said sensitive professions, including doctors, journalists, lawyers, judges and MPs, would not be legitimate targets.

Last month, the Senate gave the green light to the provision of the justice bill, which would allow law enforcement to secretly activate cameras and microphones on a suspect’s devices. 

Since 2015, when terrorist attacks rocked France, the country has increased its surveillance powers, and the “Keeper of the Seal” bill has been likened to the infamous US Patriot Act. 

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