The French parliament has overwhelmingly approved sweeping new surveillance powers in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 17 people at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery in Paris.
The new bill, which allows intelligence agencies to tap phones and emails without seeking permission from a judge, had sparked protests from rights groups who claimed it would legalise highly intrusive surveillance methods without guarantees for individual freedom and privacy.
Protesters for civil liberties groups had launched a last-ditch campaign against the bill under the banner “24 hours before 1984” in reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel about life under an all-knowing dictatorship. Groups including Amnesty International had warned of “extremely large and intrusive powers” without judicial controls.
But despite opposition from green and hard-left MPs, the bill won the overwhelming backing of the majority of MPs from the Socialist and rightwing UMP parties, which said it was necessary to tackle the terrorist risk. The bill was passed in the national assembly by 438 votes to 86, with a handful of no votes from Socialist MPs.
France boosts anti-terror measures in wake of Paris attacks
As it stands, the new law will allow authorities to spy on the digital and mobile phone communications of anyone linked to a “terrorist” inquiry without prior authorisation from a judge, and forces internet service providers and phone companies to give up data upon request.
Intelligence services will have the right to place cameras and recording devices in private homes and install so-called keylogger devices that record every key stroke on a targeted computer in real time. The authorities will be able to keep recordings for a month, and metadata for five years.