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French Police to Spy Through Phones, Laptops, Cars Using Remote Camera, Microphone Activation

France’s Parliament has voted to approve a controversial new clause in the justice reform bill allowing police to remotely turn on cameras and microphones in a host of internet-connected devices for up to six months to surveil suspects.

A move by the Emmanuel Macron government to grab more power for the security state has passed a key stage in the national Parliament, with MPs voting 80 to 24 in favour of article three of the justice bill. As reported, included in the article are provisions allowing police to ask a judge for permission to use modern personal technology to spy on suspects.

The new rules would allow police to surveil suspects for six months by using their smart devices including mobile phones, computers, and even car dashboards to watch, listen, and locate using cameras, microphones, and GPS.

Le Monde reports that while the law has been criticised by defenders of freedom and privacy from both left and right, its defenders insist this is not ‘1984’, will only be used in a handful of cases a year, and will save lives.

Constraints on the power added to the bill include needing the permission of a judge to activate a cell phone remotely, a time limit on that permission’s validity, that the snooping has to be “justified by the nature and seriousness of the crime”, and that it only be applicable to suspected crimes punishable by five or more years in prison.

As previously reported:

Guy Benarroche, a senator serving within the French Greens, said that the measure effectively leaves “the door open to widespread surveillance” in France.

Meanwhile, an NGO in the country dedicated to fighting for digital freedoms expressed dismay that the law would effectively turn every device a person owns into a digital “snitch”.

To make matters worse, the bill also includes a provision granting the state the power to use geolocation data on a person’s device to track their movement, though the Senate has reportedly applied an amendment meaning that such a power can only be applied to people suspected of a crime worth 10 years or more in prison.

This is far from the first time that France has tried to erode digital privacy in the country, with the Macron government previously pushing for both Google and Apple to abandon various privacy protections during the COVID pandemic in order to bolster state-sponsored surveillance.

More recently, the country has announced that it intends to use a complex system of surveillance cameras armed with A.I. to monitor crowds during the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, with the government hoping that the system would help spot “terrorist acts or serious breaches of security” quickly.

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