Warrantless access to user data proposed in France

In developments that appear to mirror the lawful access debate in Canada, legislators in France have introduced a bill that would allow government officials access to people’s online data without the need of court approval.

The country’s 2014-2019 Defence Appropriation Bill has a rider that would require Internet service providers and content hosting companies to provide government officials access to details of a user’s online activity without oversight. If the bill becomes law, it would also broaden the number of government officials who could access personal online data.

In Canada, privacy advocates last months raised warnings that a bill introduced by the Conservative government, ostensibly to combat cyber bullying, contains provisions that would make it easier for Canadian ISPs to voluntarily permit authorities to conduct online surveillance and metadata collection without a court order. Some observers went so far to say that the so-called proposed anti-cyber bullying bill had little to do with cyber bullying at all.

Privacy and consumer rights proponents like Michael Geist, University of Ottawa e-commerce and law professor, argued that Bill C-13, the Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act has similar features to those of the 2012 proposed Bill C-30, the protecting Children from Internet Predators Act which had lawful access provisions.

Under the French appropriations bill, requests for access to personal online data could be approved by an appointee of the Prime Minister for a period of up to 30 days, renewable on demand. The request could be made by officials of the Ministries of Defence, the Interior or Finance. Requests will be reviewed after the fact by a committee that audits wiretapping orders.

The proposed bill was attacked by Renaissance Numerique, a think tank whose board members include the director of public and legal affairs for Microsoft France and the institutional relations manager of Google France.

The organization said, the proposed bill is antidemocratic because broadens the government’s ability to collect Internet users’ data with the approval or a judge and further weakens existing controls on accessing people’s personal online data.

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Nestor E. Arellano
Nestor E. Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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