September 9, 2008
President Nicolas Sarkozy faced an embarrassing split in his Cabinet today over a computer system that a new French internal intelligence service will use to spy on the private lives of millions of law-abiding citizens.
Hervé Morin, the Defence Minister, broke government ranks to side with a growing revolt against Edvige, an acronym for a police database that will store personal details including opinions, the social circle and even sexual preferences of more or less anyone who interests the State.
Edvige, which is also a woman’s name, was created by decree in July to store data on anyone aged 13 or above who is “likely to breach public order”.
“Sarkozy’s Big Sister”, as it has been dubbed, will also track anyone active in politics or trade unions and in a significant role in business, the media, entertainment or social or religious institutions. Listed people will have limited rights to consult their files.
“Surely this is a strange mixing up of categories,” said Mr Morin, who was a senior centrist party MP until he joined the Cabinet of Mr Sarkozy last year.
“Is it useful to gather data such as telephone numbers, sexual orientation and details of taxes and assets and so on without knowing exactly what is the point?” he asked.
Mr Morin was slapped down by Michèle Alliot-Marie, the Interior Minister, who heads Mr Sarkozy’s drive to implement the law-and-order pledges of his 2007 election campaign. “It is odd that Mr Morin has not managed to find my telephone number,” she said. “I would have set his mind at rest.”