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French MPs back controversial ‘spying’ bill

Bill gives intelligence agencies power to have real-time access to connection data, email content, key log-ins and phone or mobile geo-location data without seeking permission from judge.

05.05.2015
French MPs back controversial ‘spying’ bill

By Hajer M'tiri

PARIS 

French MPs backed an “anti-terror” bill that grants sweeping powers to intelligence services Tuesday, despite criticism from rights groups that the law puts the country in danger of adopting an NSA-style mass surveillance system.

The bill, backed by 438 MPs and rejected by 86, gives intelligence agencies the power to have real-time access to connection data, email content, key log-ins and phone or mobile geo-location data without seeking permission from a judge.

It also calls for the creation of a new administrative body, the National Committee of Intelligence Technical Control, composed of nine members, including four judges, four MPs and a specialist in electronic communication. The body will be responsible for verifying the compliance of monitoring measures.

Campaigners against the bill have said the proposals will produce a deja-vu effect, creating a French version of the NSA, the U.S. intelligence body.

PM Manuel Valls has repeatedly defended the bill, which could force communication companies to sift through clients’ phone and internet data, saying the measure would not allow “mass surveillance and will not be a French Patriot Act” -- a reference to post-Sept. 11 U.S. anti-terror legislation.

Valls said the law was “necessary” and that France was “one of the last democracies not to regulate its intelligence services by law.”

The last French intelligence project was adopted in 1991.

"This bill creates a lasting and secretive system to control citizens and entrusts the executive powers with virtually unlimited use of it. As such, it is unacceptable," Adrienne Charmet, a spokeswoman for the French Internet rights group La Quadrature du Net, said. 

The vote comes almost four months after attacks on the headquarters of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher store in Paris.

The bill will be debated by the upper house, the Senate, in the end of May. 

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