Police will be able to spy on suspects by remotely activating their phones’ cameras, microphones and GPS under new French laws called “snoop cards.”
- The spying provision has been widely attacked by advocates on the left and right.
- But France’s justice minister has insisted that only “dozens of cases a year” will be dealt with.
French police should be able to spy on suspects by remotely activating the camera, microphone and GPS on their phones and other devices, lawmakers agreed Wednesday night.
The spying provision, which is part of a broader justice reform bill, has been attacked by left-wing and rights advocates as a letter from authoritarian snoops, though Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti , insists that it would affect only “dozens of cases a year.”
The measure, which covers laptops, cars and other connected objects, as well as phones, would allow the geolocation of suspects in crimes punishable by at least five years in prison.
The devices could also be activated remotely to record sound and images of people suspected of terrorist offences, as well as delinquency and organized crime.
The provisions “raise serious concerns about infringements of fundamental freedoms,” digital rights group La Quadrature du Net wrote in a May statement.
He cited the ‘right to security, the right to private life and private correspondence’ and ‘the right to come and go freely’, calling the proposal part of a ‘strong-arm slide towards security’.
French police should be able to spy on suspects by remotely activating the camera, microphone and GPS on their phones and other devices, lawmakers agreed Wednesday night (French surveillance and intervention police shown)
French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti attends questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, on July 4, 2023.
During Wednesday’s debate, lawmakers siding with President Emmanuel Macron inserted an amendment limiting the use of remote spying to “when justified by the nature and gravity of the crime” and “for a strictly proportional duration.”
Any use of the provision must be approved by a judge, while the total duration of surveillance cannot exceed six months.
And sensitive professions, such as doctors, journalists, lawyers, judges and parliamentarians, would not be legitimate targets.
“We are a long way from the totalitarianism of ‘1984,’” George Orwell’s novel about a society under total surveillance, Dupond-Moretti said.
“People’s lives will be saved” by the law, he added.
The challenged measure, part of an article containing several other provisions, was approved by members of the National Assembly as a broader justice reform bill making its way through parliament.