French Assembly passes law allowing police to secretly activate phone cameras and microphones to spy

By Legal Wires 3 Minutes Read

The French Government has passed a law that permits police to spy on them via their mobile phones.

The Bill was passed in the National Assembly as a part of a wider justice reform bill, allowing the police to surveil suspects by remotely activating cameras, microphones, and GPS location on their phones and other devices.

To use this surveillance a judge will have to approve the use of such special powers to surveil any suspect, limiting the total surveillance duration to not more than six months. Moreover, the recently amended bill forbids use against journalists, lawyers, and other “sensitive professions”.  Geolocation would be limited to crimes that are punishable by at least five years in prison.

This move by the French Government is acclaimed to be related to a plot point of George Orwell’s novel “1984“. Refuting this Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti shot down comparisons with the Orwell novel saying that the law was aimed at saving people’s lives. The powers would only be used for a “dozen cases per year”, and this was “far away” from the totalitarianism surveillance state of Orwell’s 1984.

The digital rights group La Quadrature du Net previously pointed out the potential for abuse and serious concerns over the infringement of fundamental liberties. As the law is not clear about what constitutes a serious crime, there are fears the French Government might use this to target environmental activists and others who aren’t grave threats. The organization also notes that worrying security policies have a habit of expanding to less serious crimes. Genetic registration was only used for sex offenders at first, La Quadrature says but is now being used for most crimes.

Legal Wires

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