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The Electronic Bastille 267

smooth wombat writes "Imagine a database whose aim is to centralize and analyze data on people aged 13 or above who are active in politics or labor unions, who play a significant institutional, economic, social or religious role, or who are 'likely to breach public order.' At first glance one might think the country in question is Russia or Zimbabwe but the truth is, it's a democratic nation which is implementing this database. Specifically, France. Now, with the summer break over and as the people of France return to work, there is a small but growing movement to storm this electronic Bastille. Michel Pezet, a lawyer and former member of a body charged with protecting French citizens from electronic prying, had this to say about this new data-gathering law: 'The Edvige database has no place in a democracy. There is nothing in the decree that sets limits or a framework. Whether the database is used with or without moderation depends only on orders from up high. The electronic Bastille is upon us.'"
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The Electronic Bastille

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  • by jabithew ( 1340853 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:57AM (#24885539)

    Not my CIA and FBI, I'm British. :p

    Interesting reply. It's nice to get this sort of thing out in the open, but the case of the British DNA database has left me feeling somewhat powerless in the grasp of an over-zealous-yet-strangely-ineffective police state (introduced by our country's socialists, I hasten to add, before people start trying to blame the right).

  • by will_die ( 586523 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:58AM (#24885541) Homepage
    In addition to the person who is concidered to possibly being a threat the database will contain all relatives and people who contact with the person except for in a one-time only type relationship.
    The information stored will contain "civil status and occupation; physical addresses, phone numbers, email addresses; physical characteristics, photographs and behaviour; identity papers; car plate numbers; fiscal and patrimonial information; moves and legal history"
  • by dascritch ( 808772 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:08AM (#24885579) Homepage

    Except that in France, we have an established institution (ssince 1978) , the Commission Nationale Informatique et Libertés (Nat. Commission Coputers and Liberties, note the meaning plurial), that cannot be overruled by the State.

    In fact, it is more than probable that Edvige wouldn't be accepted in front of the State Council. Or the European Commission.

  • Re:Sounds good (Score:5, Informative)

    by ( 1039484 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:09AM (#24885583) Homepage
    Well I doubt if it's the case. In my opinion, it'll be a growing database of youngsters living mainly in residencies, the 'jeunes des cités' that every journalist talk about on the news. It'll be accessible only to cops and immigration police. But it gets worse: teachers are asked, in schools, to 'help complete the database' by giving every information about every children (country of origin, parents' nationality, everything), to help prevent immigration and to help track the 'sans-papiers' (people who just immigrated in France ans don't already have IDs, or people who just have their IDs discarded).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:14AM (#24885615)

    You know what AC? /me puts arm round AC's shoulders like a father explaining something to an over-enthusiastic, ignorant son.

    If any of your ancestors are English, there's a good chance that you are French, or have some French blood running through your veins.

    Ever heard of the Battle of Hastings in 1066? Where those 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' sucessfully invaded England. Or the Hundred Years War, where the Frenchmen who originally invaded England got nostalgic for their old lands, decided the food in England was crap anyway, and re-invaded France.

    There is a reason why around 1,600 words in the English language are French [].

    Ever heard of Napolean? The Frenchman that successfully invaded most of Europe, he did better against the Russians than other Westerners ever have. He, and his armies, successfully invaded Russia and occupied Moscow. We had to wait until the Soviet Union collapsed from the inside.

    Here's a fun fact, these are all the French words in your post:

    • pass
    • terror
    • war
    • surrender

    The reason they're there is because the French aren't as shit at fighting as you'd like to think. And since it seems that you're a Yank, you should remember who got your country freedom from the British Empire: Napoleon. Imagine, if it weren't for him, the US might have ended up like Canada.

    Disclaimer: yeah I know you're being sarcastic, but some people actually believe that bullshit.

  • by Mornedhel ( 961946 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:20AM (#24885647)

    Well the CNIL is good and all, but they really have no power whatsoever in this case.

    The law from August 2004 (modifying the Loi Informatique et Libertés from 1978) states that public administrations and organisms will not need the CNIL's authorization anymore in order to create precisely such files. Private enterprises and such still need it.

    What's more, the 2004 law is an adaptation of a EU directive to the French LIL laws. So basically, I have no doubts it would be accepted by the EU Commission. It's up to us now...

  • by JCWDenton ( 851047 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:36AM (#24885705)
    A specific example of this happening in the US: []

    COINTELPRO (an acronym for Counter Intelligence Program) was a series of covert and often illegal projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. The FBI used covert operations from its inception; however the formal COINTELPRO operations took place between 1956 and 1971.[2] The FBI motivation at the time was "protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order." Targets included groups suspected of being subversive, such as communist and socialist organizations; people suspected of building a "coalition of militant black nationalist groups" ranging from the Black Panther Party and Republic of New Afrika, to "those in the non-violent civil rights movement," such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and others associated with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), and other civil rights groups; "White Hate Groups" including the Ku Klux Klan and National States' Rights Party; a broad range of organizations lumped together under the title "New Left" groups, including Students for a Democratic Society, the National Lawyers Guild, the Weathermen, almost all groups protesting the Vietnam War, and even individual student demonstrators with no group affiliation; and nationalist groups such as those "Seeking Independence for Puerto Rico."[3] The directives governing COINTELPRO were issued by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who ordered FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of these movements and their leaders.[4][5]

  • by Meumeu ( 848638 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:37AM (#24885709)

    You never watch The Experts or NCIS ?

    For those in the rest of the world who wonder what Les Experts are, it's the french translation of CSI.

  • by FornaxChemica ( 968594 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:10AM (#24885837) Homepage Journal

    That's right, the RG (Renseignements Generaux) was a French intelligence agency which has been merged with the DST a couple of months ago. I guess they are reorganizing their agencies hence the revised database system.

    Quoting the French interior minister:

    Edvige will differ from the old RG file on two points only, "it will take into account underage individuals and be extended to sensitive data", such as sexual orientation.

    I doubt it's different from the methods use by other countries to track potential troublemakers. What's different is that now all these decisions related to intelligence services go under public scrutiny and become all the rage among self-proclaimed champions of the civil liberties. In short, much ado about nothing.

  • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:40AM (#24885953)

    an over-zealous-yet-strangely-ineffective police state (introduced by our country's socialists, I hasten to add, before people start trying to blame the right).

    It should be pointed out here for those who are not from the UK, that while the Labour party has historically been broadly socialist, their policies have been drifting to the right for some time and they haven't really been socialists for at least 15 years.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:40AM (#24885957)

    i believe "edvige" was introduced the 1st of July 2008 and not in 2004, see;jsessionid=952C97B66AAC8C45F624671F93C6A89E.tpdjo07v_2?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000019103207&dateTexte=&oldAction=rechJO (in french).

    moreover it does not abrogate or put an amendment to "loi informatique et liberté" (LIL1978). For a digest of the law see (in french).

    the main points are (my own inaccurate translation):

    - Article 4: the files cannot be subject to interconnection, aggregation, or any kind of relation with other information systems or files

    - the right to access its own file is granted indirectly through CNIL as stated by the LIL1978

    -all data are checked and updated on a yearly basis and cannot be kept for more than 5 years

    I am not a lawyer nor a jurist. I am not a big fan of this new law, but felt like playing the devil's advocate as TFA and the comments look inaccurate or incomplete. I am not working for the french government either.

  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @07:43AM (#24886279)

    This guy is the brother of Monica Bicking, one of the RNC 8 []


    Reports have come out about violent protest. First, I want to talk about the facts related to this:

    Actual incidents are often exaggerated or fabricated. For instance, in the case of the home raids things like paint, bottles, and rags were labeled as "the ingredients for making Molotov cocktails". Iâ(TM)m sure every reader of this post has sufficient ingredients to make a Molotov cocktail. Also, many people have hatchets, bricks, and other materials. Buckets of urine were particularly attention-grabbing, but the only reason for these was that one of the houses had a broken toilet. The police interpretation of the confiscated material is not credible.

    There have also been reports of violence at the protests themselves. First it should be noted that there are no reports of police or bystanders being injured. I personally find it is hard to classify property damage as "violence". If you don't include property damage then there doesn't seem to be much evidence of violence.

    Protest is confrontational. Some will suggest that protesters should obey police in all situations. They suggest that protesters should obey all laws and only protest where permitted. They suggest protesters should not be disruptive of anyone else. The result would not be protest. In cases like the RNC, where extensive planning was in place to counter protest, non-confrontational protest means protesting according to someone elseâ(TM)s plans, someone who has no desire for the protest to succeed in any way. Once you confront the police, there will be violence â" usually by the police. And sure, you can stand with a flower in your hand and get a face full of pepper spray, and of course many people choose that course. Itâ(TM)s a noble choice, but I canâ(TM)t fault people for making other tactical decisions.

    Another protesting tactic is the "black bloq", typically a group of people who try to attract the attention of the police, often through property damage. If the police have nothing better to do, then why not pin down the peaceful protesters and direct them where they can make the least impact? People in the black bloq will try to keep this from happening. Itâ(TM)s unlikely they were at all successful at the RNC as it was so thoroughly militarized. You could debate whether this is a good strategy (and there is lots of debate about this), but probably few people outside activists have any idea that there even is any underlying strategy.

    Also, if you wonder why protesters, especially the anarchists, dress the way they do, it is primarily defensive. If you are going to get teargassed and peppersprayed does wearing a handkerchief seem so odd? And if they are tracking people to preemptively arrest, all the more reason to be as anonymous as possible.

    So he says the police did find buckets of urine and Molotov cocktail components but they were there for legitimate reasons. And he admits "black bloq" anarchists damage property, which is true. []

    He denies that police were attacked [] []

    or bystanders []

    which is not. You can't make Molotovs out of paint either. But amongst all the spin and lies to get his sister off the hook he does admit the police found the stuff your affidavit says they were searching for.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @08:14AM (#24886459)

    >Napoleon wasn't French. He was Corsican.

    And where is Corsica ? []

    >And the Norman conquest is about the only victory that the French can claim on their own, and that was almost 1000 years ago.

    Quite hard to be a civilisation spanning millennia without any victory : []

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @11:05AM (#24888525) Homepage

    And they can move relative easily in a crowd which a car can not. And the policemen riding a horse have a nice view over the crowd. And they can't be easily attacked from below. And. And. And.

  • Re:Sorry... (Score:4, Informative)

    by mikael ( 484 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:10PM (#24889383)

    That would be the Parisians. But the French fishermen would blockade the harbours [], the French truckers would blockade the ferry ports [] and oil refineries [], while the French farmers will blockade strategic locations such as the trains [], the tunnels [], and Disneyland [].

  • Re:Sorry... (Score:4, Informative)

    by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:05PM (#24895045)

    Where did you get your statistics ? The public sector employs a lot of people in France but not 50%. A comprehensive citizen watch [] organisation puts the figure at 26%, i.e. 7 million people. This includes ordinary civil servants working for one part or another of government, but also scientific researchers, teachers, and employees of public companies like Electricite de France, the Parisian Metro, and so on.

Order and simplification are the first steps toward mastery of a subject -- the actual enemy is the unknown. -- Thomas Mann