France: Real-time interception of e-communications by security forces

By EDRi · December 18, 2013

The “loi de programmation militaire (LPM)”, the “military programming
law”, was adopted on 10 December 2013 by the French Senate after having
been approved in first reading by the Parliament. This law enables the
French secret services to intercept any electronic communication, under
the direct authorisation of Prime Minister or the President.

All is not yet lost, however. Sixty members of Parliament or sixty
senators may appeal to the Constitutional Court to question the legality
of the whole text, or parts thereof. This would suspend the adoption of
the law. Unfortunately, gathering sufficient support for such an appeal
is proving harder than it would appear – the Socialists (who are in
power) are being whipped into line, while the right-wing is divided
between its normal support for whatever the secret services ask for and
the political opportunity to score a “win” against the Socialist

The main debate concerns whether the LPM authorises real-time collection
of meta-data only or if this collection also includes content-data. A
second debate concerns the adequacy of safeguards. The Senator in charge
of the legislation, M. Sueur, argues that the new authorisation
procedure actually improves the situation. First, he reinforced the
powers of the National Commission for the Supervision of Security
Interception, making it easier to have access to the processes that it
is supposed to oversee. Second, the Minister of Home Affairs must now
refer any interception measure to the Prime Minister for approval. The
fact remains, however, that the Commission has no financial means and is
composed of three parliamentarians chosen by the executive.

Those loopholes explain why the LPM has been strongly opposed by ICT
businesses and human rights organisations alike. French associations of
software editors, of advertising firms and big American firms like
Google and Facebook all argue that this new law will feed the growing
distrust in cloud computing in France and were concerned that “this law
will necessitate the implementation of back-doors, access to which will
be difficult to control”.

Nonetheless, the main problem for the campaign against the proposals was
that mainstream media did not initially understand the problems and
therefore misreported it. It is only after some in-depth and alarming
articles on specialist websites like PCInpact or Numerama that awareness
began to rise and it took a week and a lot of social media activity on
the day of the vote before mainstream media began to report more
accurately and comprehensively on the draft legislation. Now, finally,
politicians started to become more interested in the legislation and it
is likely that they will enter into a cross-party alliance to sign for a
referral to the Constitutional Court. 50 promises of signatures were
gathered on Monday.

Will the deputies send the article 13 to the Constitutional Court? (only
in French, 11.12.2013)

Draft military programming law (only in French)

About the Senate amendment (only in French, 12.12.2013)

Net Surveillance: Flood of protests against the French Patriot Act (only
in French, 9.12.2013)

How it will be organised the Internet surveillance in France (3.12.2013)

12 more deputies needed to send the law to the Constitutional Council
(only in French, 16.12.2013)

EDRi-gram: No Warrant Internet Spying By French Authorities (4.12.2013)

(Contribution by Xavier Gillard – EDRi intern)