France adopts controversial surveillance Act

As a result of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, France has adopted a law that enables its intelligence agencies to monitor phone calls and emails of suspected terrorists without prior authorisation from a judge. The Bill, which was approved by France's highest constitutional authority on 23 July, has been controversial from the start and criticised by civil liberties groups. President François Hollande ordered the Constitutional Court to review the Bill after it was approved by the legislature. However, the Constitutional Court made only a few changes to the Bill, for example, in order to ban interception of overseas communications.

According to EDRi (European Digital Rights), the Court added only a few conditions in order to limit the extensive scope of the legal grounds (the fight against collective violence and terrorism, the defence or promotion of major interests in foreign policy, economy, industry and science) that allow for surveillance by intelligence agencies.

Internet service providers will be required to install “black boxes” to gather and analyse metadata of Internet users. The government will be able to use algorithms to automatically flag suspect behaviour online.

Some of the Act’s provisions will enter into force immediately while others need to be implemented by decrees.