Mozilla flings teddy out of pram over France's 'Patriot Act'

Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. Well, one out of three is better than nothing

Mozilla has stated that it is deeply concerned with France's commitment to surveillance practices, as further established last week when the nation passed its very own Patriot Act.

The French National Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of the controversial Projet de loi relatif au renseignement last week.

Mozilla has complained that the law "threatens the integrity of internet infrastructure, user privacy, and data security".

Alongside this claim, Mozilla cites the Sous Surveillance campaign run by La Quadrature du Net and other civil society groups, and criticises the extent of authorisations the bill offers the French intelligence service, who will be allowed to:

  • Monitor and store user communications, metadata and Web activity about all users in France and abroad
  • Force internet service providers (and potentially other technology companies) to install “black boxes” in their networks to collect data and use algorithms to search for “suspicious patterns”
  • Intercept user communications, including reading emails and tapping phones, without meaningful due process or oversight
  • Compromise internet infrastructure in France and extra-territorially

Mozilla notes that "an impressive number of very diverse stakeholders ranging from internet users, civil society groups, businesses, lawyers’ and magistrates’ unions, the French association of victims of terrorism, the French Digital Council, as well as administrative authorities such as the CNIL (French Data Protection authority) and CNCDH (French National Consultative Committee for Human Rights)" had previously objected to the legislation.

These parties, the Firefox-flinger claims, have been all but ignored, noting that none of the offending provisions within the bill have been removed despite Mozilla's suggestions.

There is a stark discrepancy between the open and constructive discussions being held in international fora and France’s trajectory and disregard for the expressed concerns in these matters. For instance, while France was a founding member of the Freedom Online Coalition, a group of 26 governments committed to internet freedom, the French government was disappointingly nowhere to be seen at the Coalition’s annual conference this week in Mongolia.

As the bill progresses to the French upper house for consideration, Mozilla also pleads to the French senators to "uphold France’s international commitments, engage in a meaningful way with the concerns that have been raised by numerous stakeholders, and update the bill accordingly".

If the bill passes through the Senate, which it is likely to do, the French government has also promised that it will be sent to the national constitutional council for review, in an effort to avoid controversy.

Mozilla calls on France, "as an international leader in upholding human rights around the world, to set a positive example for other governments rather than continuing on a course of eroding protections for users and undermining the open internet". ®

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