[FT] French MPs back controversial surveillance bill

France’s intelligence services will gain sweeping powers after the country’s legislators backed a controversial bill legalising phone tapping and email interception, four months after the Islamist attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in which 12 people died. The bill, passed by 438 votes to 86 in the National Assembly with 42 abstentions, was opposed by many lawyers, judges and human rights activists who denounced the law as intrusive and lacking sufficient checks and balances. They have dubbed it France’s version of the US Patriot Act, passed after the September 11 2001 attacks on the US. […]

The bill allows French agents to plug “black boxes” directly into networks and servers owned by telecom and internet operators to monitor digital traffic and, in the case of suspected terrorists, monitor their behaviour with the help of algorithms that analyse suspects’ metadata. Opponents of the proposals have pointed to abuses disclosed by Edward Snowden and questioned their effectiveness in solving jihadism cases. All those responsible for the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, they point out, were known and tracked by intelligence services before the attack. […]

“The government is telling us they won’t store the data and that it will remain anonymous, but how do we know that?,” said Philippe Aigrain, a computer scientist and a member of the parliamentary commission on digital matters. Whistleblowers will face criminal charges, Mr Aigrain added. […]

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