France lawmakers debates controversial surveillance bill

France lawmakers debates controversial surveillance bill

[JURIST] The French Parliament [official website, in French] on Monday debated a bill that would give French intelligence services more powers to bug and track potential terrorists in France. The bill would require Internet companies to monitor suspicious behavior. Internet companies are concerned that the legislation could deter clients, and civil liberties advocates argue that the bill lacks adequate privacy protections. The government has dismissed these concerns and clarified that the measures being proposed are not aimed at general surveillance, but to monitor target people to protect citizens of France. The government’s hope is that such action would prevent an imminent terror attack. The French government presented [JURIST report] the bill in March.

Government surveillance policies have been hotly debated recently. Much of the focus comes as a result of revelations [JURIST backgrounder] by former US National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] contractor Edward Snowden [JURIST news archive], who allegedly leaked classified documents, including PRISM and UPSTREAM, in 2013, exposing the scope and breadth of NSA surveillance activities. One of the first challenges to NSA activities came in June 2013, when the ACLU filed suit [JURIST report] in federal court just days after Snowden claimed responsibility for the leaks. As the outcry over the revelations began to expand in scope and severity, several other human rights groups decided to sue as well. The following month both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center [advocacy websites] filed suit alleging [JURIST report] similar claims on the behalf of a coalition of 19 separate organizations. Last month a US District Court dismissed [JURIST report] a challenge to NSA warrantless surveillance. Also in February the UK Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) ruled [JURIST report] that the UK’s mass surveillance of citizens’ Internet use violates human rights law. In July civil liberties groups sued [JURIST report] the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service [official website] known as MI6, alleging that the agency accesses data from undersea cables in violation of the rights to private life and freedom of expression.