Blogs | Privacy and data protection | Privacy and confidentiality

French Constitutional Council validates computer search without warrant

By EDRi · March 27, 2003

The French Constitutional Council recently validated the Internal Safety Law (‘Loi sur la sécurité intérieure’), adopted by the Parliament on February 13. This decision has been commented by the Human Rights League – LDH, the French member of the International Human Rights Federation – as a ‘step backwards for the rule of law’.

Among the many provisions infringing privacy and other human rights, one authorizes the immediate access by Law Enforcement Authorities to the computer data of Telecommunications Operators, including Internet Access Providers, as well as of almost any public or private institute, organization or company. The second important measure authorizes the searching without warrant of any information system, provided that its data are accessible through the network from a computer being searched with a warrant (e.g. all computers in a P2P network may now be searched on the basis of a single warrant for one of them). If the data are stored in a computer located in a foreign country, then their access remains subject to applicable international agreements.

These provisions implement parts of Article 19 (search and seizure of stored computer data) of the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention, signed but not yet ratified by France. The Convention, which has been opened to signatures since 23 November 2001, has not entered into force to date. It has been strongly criticized by many Human Rights organizations as well as by professional experts.

EDRI-member IRIS notes in its press release that the French transposition of Article 19 of the Cybercrime Treaty doesn’t even fulfil the minimal conditions and safeguards stated in Article 15, in reference to international instruments for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Statement by Ligue des droits de l’Homme (in French)

Statement by IRIS (in French)

Treaty Watch

(Contribution by Meryem Marzouki, IRIS)