Hyper-surveillance: the French Senate approves the remote activation of cameras and microphones on mobile phones

Despite the opposition of the left, the government highlights the guarantees and restrictions linked to its application.

The French Senate this week approved a controversial provision included in the Justice bill, presented by the portfolio minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti. This measure introduces significant changes in criminal procedure and It has generated heated debate in the political and legal sphere.

One of the most discussed provisions is the authorization of remote activation of cameras and microphones on mobile phones, without the knowledge or consent of the persons concerned . This measure has two main objectives: real-time geolocation in specific cases of crime and the capture of images and sounds by activating cameras and microphones, limited to situations linked to terrorism and organized crime.

However, this provision has caused widespread concern among civil rights advocates, organizations and civil society groups. The Observatory of digital and digital freedoms (OLN) denounced that this measure represents a “overconfidence” and which turns any connected device into a potential mass surveillance tool.

Éric Dupond-Moretti, Minister of Justice in France. Photo: Reuters.

The left expressed its opposition to this provision deeming it “disproportionate” and tried, without success, to partially or completely eliminate it during the process of debate. The main concern is the risk of opening the door to widespread surveillance and the impact this could have on the privacy of citizens.

The Minister of Justice defended the provision, arguing that these remote activation techniques are already in use today, but they require the physical installation of monitoring devices, which can present risks for researchers. Dupond-Moretti assured that the provision comes with strong safeguards and that its implementation will be subject to the approval of a judge, who ensures that rights and legality are safeguarded in each case.

Indeed, the Senate adopted an amendment by Bruno Retailleau, leader of the Los Republicanos party in the Upper House, which limits the possibility of using geolocation to offenses punishable by at least 10 years in prison, against five years of the initial text, underlines RFI.

In addition to the controversy surrounding the remote activation of cameras and microphones, Article 3 of the Justice Bill contemplates other important measures. Among them, the expansion of night searches for crimes considered serious, as well as the possibility of extending the duration of preliminary investigations under certain conditions.

France’s justice minister defended the provision, arguing that such remote activation techniques are already in use today.

The approval of this measure sparked an intense debate on the balance between security and the protection of individual rights. On the one hand, proponents argue that activating cameras and microphones remotely can be a crucial tool in the fight against terrorism and organized crime allowing authorities to collect evidence faster and prevent potential threats.

On the other hand, critics argue that this provision represents a significant invasion of people’s privacy, as it involves covert and non-consensual surveillance of personal devices. Legitimate concerns have been raised about the possibility of misuse of this technology. as well as the risk of abuse by the authorities.

French police officers secure the bridge leading to the Eiffel Tower, on September 23, 2020, in Paris, after a bomb threat. Photo: AP

In an interview with France 3, the Nancy criminal lawyer, Frédéric Berna, commented on his reservations about the law which has just been passed, stressing that it goes too far, particularly with regard to journalists. “A State which begins to be able to allow, even in a limited waylisten to journalists’ sources and monitor journalists’ sources, It is a state that is starting to go very badly, which is afraid and which does not seem very comfortable with democracy and freedom of information,” he said.

He also added that lawyers would also have problems with this law: “In principle, lawyers cannot be subject to these systems of verification and remote activation of telecommunications carriers. In reality, the hypocrisy of the system, If the police are watching someone and activating their phone while they are questioning their lawyer in their office or elsewhere, they are controlling the system.

“People will no longer dare to trust their lawyer or their doctor. There are things like that, if they happened in other countries, we would not hesitate to denounce them,” Berna said.

Source: Latercera

Related articles



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Share article

Latest articles


Subscribe to stay updated.