As part of a broader justice reform bill, French lawmakers have given French police the legal authority to spy on suspects by remotely activating cameras, microphones, and GPS location functionality on a person’s smartphone and other connected devices.
The new law covers laptops, vehicles, smartphones, and other connected devices and will only be used when an individual is suspected of a crime that is punishable by at least ten years of prison time.
As NDTV reports, despite cries of authoritarianism and unjustifiable government oversight from people on both sides of the political spectrum, French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti claims that the new regulations will affect only “dozens of cases a year.”
Devices could remotely be used to record sound and images of people suspected of serious crimes, including terrorism and organized crime.
A French anti-censorship and surveillance group, La Quadrature du Net (LQDN), argued earlier this year that the newly-passed legislation raises significant concerns about the infringement of “fundamental liberties.” LQDN says that people have a right to privacy that is violated by the “heavy-handed” proposal.
Lawmakers in French President Emmanuel Macron’s corner argued for an amendment that limits the new remote spying privileges to situations “when justified by the nature and seriousness of the crime” and only “for a strictly proportional duration.”
For authorities to utilize remote spying surveillance measures, a judge must approve the usage. The period of surveillance can be up to six months. Further, the law excludes certain people from surveillance, including doctors, journalists, lawyers, judges, and French legislators.
“We’re far away from the totalitarianism of 1984,” says Dupond-Moretti, adding that “People’s lives will be saved” by the new law.
Following a coordinated series of devastating and deadly terrorist attacks in Paris in November 2015, the country has routinely enacted stricter surveillance laws.
Critics have argued that France has continually eroded human rights through its various surveillance measures, harkening back to rebukes of the Patriot Act that American lawmakers instituted following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Despite unrest within civil liberties groups, the French National Assembly passed its new justice reform bill, including surveillance measures, in a landslide vote of 80 to 24.
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