The type of warrantless surveillance that could become a reality in the United Kingdom has just been approved in France, under the guise of the government defending its people against terrorists.
It follows the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, where twelve people were shot dead in Paris. The shootings started a huge change in opinion on surveillance in France, ultimately leading to Loi Renseignement, the new surveillance law.
Under this law, French officials will be able to record calls, texts and Internet activity on any suspect, without a warrant. It is similar to the type of surveillance used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with the use of black boxes to record.
Even though the surveillance needs to be approved by a select committee, France has not commented on how this committee will be selected. We expect the French government will cherry pick to avoid any request denials, similar to our own perfect Investigatory Powers Tribunal, who has not failed to approve almost all requests for the past decade from the government.
In France, a petition has been signed over 100,000 times asking for the removal of law. Amnesty International also criticised France for overzealous use of surveillance with no time limits on collection, alongside not having to gain a warrant for invasion of privacy.
It is even worse considering France was one of the better nations before the Charlie Hebdo attacks for anti-surveillance measures. This new surveillance law is a shameful 180-turn for the country, showing that fear of terrorists is more valuable than freedom of the people.
In the UK, we face similar invasion laws under the guise of the Snooper’s Charter. Our own “Evil Person of 2014” Theresa May is intent on pushing the new law into Parliament during David Cameron’s current term in office, although this could be stopped if Labour and the Lib Dems actually step up and fight it.
Surveillance in Europe has went from a dirty word that only the UK would indulge to something multiple governments are interested in. Thankfully the most powerful country, Germany, continues to stand neutral in the surveillance debate, instead of forcing its own people to sacrifice rights for the “safety of the country”.