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International Surveillance: A New French Bill to Collect Data Worldwide!

Paris, 15th September 2015 — After the French Constitutional Council censored measures on international surveillance in the Surveillance Law voted last June, the government fires back with a bill that will be discussed at the end of September in the National Assembly. La Quadrature du Net strongly rejects the unacceptable clauses which would launch an “intelligence war” against our European and international partners.

The Constitutional Council censored measures contained in the Surveillance Law regarding international surveillance, arguing that the law should have contained control measures and conditions for intercepted data processing and retention. After the revelation by L'Obs of the secret decree organizing the mass-surveillance of international communications in the beginning of July, it was not possible for the government not to legislate again on this subject. Placing a draft law quickly written on the deputies of the national Defense committee, it does not give up its goal to collect and do massive analysis of communications worldwide.

After analyzing the draft law, La Quadrature du Net denounces the direction taken and calls citizens and parliamentarians to oppose them:

The scope of international surveillance proposals covers those of the Surveillance Law : they are still broad and contain potentially serious excess. Their offensive aspect, especially the promotion (in addition to the defense) of "essential interests of foreign policy" and "essential economic and scientific interests of France", is worrying for international relationships of France, which would affirm planning to implement without scruples economic and scientific espionage. Citizen organizations could also be placed under surveillance (paragraph 5).

Surveillance would authorize uncertain and undefined technologies upon which the bill states not, leaving the possibility of extending their scope without any further reference to the Parliament.

The bill does not deal with individual surveillance measures but institutes a massive data gathering system, with local authorizations delivered for geographical zones or countries (e.g. all of Africa, entire Canada, all of South America, and so on) or for a particular organization (e.g. entire XX company, entire YY NGO): this logic of massive recording must be put into light so that citizens and parliamentarians could question the foreign intelligence policy of France, regarding its international commitments and obligations, and its role within the international community (paragraph 11). It is a downright break of the universality of rights between French residents and citizens and the whole international community, bringing a massive collection of data from our European neighbours communications.

It should also be pointed that this massive collect outside national borders will ensnare all communications of French people living or traveling abroad, introducing an obvious problem of equality for French citizens in front of the surveillance conducted against them, or European citizens with regard to people living in France.

As La Quadrature du Net already pointed when the Surveillance bill was discussed, international surveillance goes with a logic of massive data collection, and the identification of French citizens or residents would come after data processing: this does not ensure privacy for French citizens, since a major part of their national communications transits through international networks (paragraphs 7 et 8).

Furthermore, only lawyers, journalists, parliamentarians and magistrates working in France would be protected, and only concerning their professional communications, while the private or professional nature of those communications can only be decided after data processing (paragraph 12).
The duration of retention for data collected abroad would be considerably longer than for data collected within the country: one year after processing for correspondences (30 days in France); six years for connection data (4 years in France); 8 years after decipherment for encrypted data (against 6 years in France). No valid reason is given to justify this extension of retention time, which introduces a major and illegitimate break into the confidentiality of all international communications (paragraphs 14 to 20).

This massive data collection would be conducted under the sole authority of the Prime Minister. The national commission of control for intelligence technics (CNTCR) would be informed of surveillance measures after the fact and would not give any prior view or opinion upon them. The CNCTR will only have the possibility to address recommendations to the Prime Minister, and then to refer to the Council of State if these recommendations are not followed (paragraph 24).

This Surveillance bill on international communications, as it is written, is a weapon of war turned toward international population. Based on the principle of massive collections of international communications, the bill wants to legalize the same abuses as those denounced by Edward Snowden about the NSA (National Security Agency of the USA). As a crucial part of the global Internet traffic goes through French submarine cables, this law would give France a place in the worldwide surveillance system that citizens and parliamentarians must refuse to validate. The lack of publication on data exchange agreements between countries makes all the more worrisome the possibilities of development of inter-state surveillance market blowing up all the (scarce) control locks of intelligence services.

"Such a mass surveillance system participates in a race for worldwide spying, and places France as an enemy of fundamental freedoms. Since this bill clearly is a mere legalization of secret practices implemented since 2008, time has come for the public opinion and its representatives to clearly express their views on this race to arms of the 21st century", said Adrienne Charmet, Campaign Coordinator at La Quadrature du Net.