Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Privacy Databases Government Programming Software IT News Your Rights Online

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.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Electronic Bastille

Comments Filter:
  • by jabithew ( 1340853 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:24AM (#24885349)

    I'd be shocked if other Western governments, or at least their security services, didn't do something similar. The CIA and MI5 have been known to do this sort of thing in the past, especially during WWII and the cold war. At least the French know about theirs.

    In Britain they can take and keep your DNA if you're suspected of a crime, even if you've been acquitted. Many suspect this is why there were so many accusations of breaches of public order at this year's Notting Hill; the Met wanted the DNA of black Londoners.

  • If they were the US, they'd just license it from Google [tinyurl.com].

    (If they were the UK, they'd probably license it from Microsoft.)

  • Re:Sorry... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jedi Alec ( 258881 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:45AM (#24885473)

    To be honest if there's one country I'd expect to actually get out of their chairs and protest in the streets over this, it's the french.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:48AM (#24885483)

    Nah. In the UK we pay EDS an outrageous amount of money to fuck it up, then get something 10 years late and 20 times over budget.

    The only positive thing about UK ID card scheme is that the companies tasked with implementing the database couldn't organise a pissup in a brewery. If it was ever going to work I would be scared.

  • Sounds good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by YourExperiment ( 1081089 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:50AM (#24885503)

    People who are "active in politics... play a significant institutional, economic, social or religious role... 'likely to breach public order.'"?

    So that would be a database of politicians, CEOs and cult leaders then? So long as this database is freely accessible to all on the net, it sounds like a great idea to me.

  • by vandan ( 151516 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:50AM (#24885509) Homepage

    This is already quite widespread. Here in Sydney, Australia, I talked to an ASIO officer who openly admitted he was 'gathering data on activists'. He was walking around at a demo, with a digital video player and a notebook & pen, and interviewing people ( not telling them who he was ). I've also seen evidence that this data was then used to target individuals.

    To those who mindlessly parrot the old "if you're not doing anything wrong, you've got nothing to worry about", I have 2 responses ( well I have more, but 2 will do for now )

    1) The individuals targeted ( who were friends and comrades ) were violently attacked by riot police at a subsequent demonstration. They were arrested, roughed up, and released without charge. One was so shaken up by the experience that she pulled out of activism ( for 6 months anyway ).

    2) There's a difference between what's "wrong" and what's technically against the law. There are such things as bad laws. Here in Australia, we have some VERY bad laws. There are a group of a hundred or so builders who are facing losing their homes for not being able to pay fines imposed because they had the 'audacity' to protest over unsafe working conditions, and the high number of deaths in their industry. Sounds like a valid reason to be protesting to me ... but illegal.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:58AM (#24885543)

    ... I wish it wasnt' so but it is.

  • by ze_jua ( 910531 ) <jailh AT free DOT fr> on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:09AM (#24885581)

    In fact, French police already had such files for decades (aka "le fichier des RG", the file of the inside information gathering service), but they were "secret", and it was impossible for people to know exactly what kind of information was recorded.

    Then, are files of this kind of files usefull or good for Democracies ... ? usefull maybe (You never watch The Experts or NCIS ? ;) . Good ? I dont know (1984, Equilibrium, ... what else ?)

  • Truth: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by caliburngreywolf ( 1218464 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:15AM (#24885617)
    Public order is antithetical to democracy. Democracy can only be effective in a system where some social disorder is present.
  • by pjt33 ( 739471 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:28AM (#24885669)

    introduced by our country's socialists, I hasten to add, before people start trying to blame the right

    Are you saying that the Lib Dems are the puppet-master which is really responsible for Labour's legislative output?

  • by Jedi Alec ( 258881 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:56AM (#24885783)

    I do indeed watch NCIS, and as much as I enjoy the show, the way it glorifies both huge databases with everything you ever wanted to know about everybody but were afraid to ask, as well as agencies blatantly overstepping their jurisdictions, perform searches without warrants etc, bothers me quite a lot.

    It's fictional. I'm sure there's plenty of good people in law enforcement fighting the good fight and struggling against pesky regulations, but all it takes is one asshat abusing the information he has at his fingertips for people's lives to get permanently ruined.

  • by dargaud ( 518470 ) <(slashdot2) (at) (gdargaud.net)> on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:58AM (#24885791) Homepage
    You are a racist troll, but are those "active in politics... play a significant institutional, economic, social or religious role..." ?!?

    Nah, didn't think so.

  • by Maelwryth ( 982896 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:07AM (#24885823) Homepage
    Fella, I have just wasted 15mins of my life reading news articles trying to figure out whether there was any truth in what you were saying. None of the news stories agree with each other (including such gems as them being recruited from 67 cities (when there were 35 people)) and it turns out the afadavit [twincities.com] (pdf warning) is attached to the request for a search warrant and has nothing to do with what was actually found when the search warrant was actioned. All the shit that has been reported sounds wonderful, but most of it was never found when the houses were searched.

    I must regretfully conclude you believed this shit without ever researching it.

    If I am wrong, point it out. However,I would like documentation and citations please. Not random newspaper reports.
  • by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@nOsPAm.fredshome.org> on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:39AM (#24885951) Homepage

    Thinking without a head is pretty difficult, I'd say.

    Would it make that much difference to a politician ?

  • by Fred_A ( 10934 ) <fred@nOsPAm.fredshome.org> on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:47AM (#24885993) Homepage

    What a lot of people suspect and what some anonymous sources acknowledge is that edvige is not something new, it is an old illegal and hidden practice that they are trying to make more transparent and legal. [...] I'm going to the big protest in October but at least, I must admit that admitting the existence of this file was a very positive step.

    It does indeed seem that this is nothing more than the opening to a larger audience (of police forces) of the existing DCRI [wikipedia.org] (a mix of the two former intelligence agencies) database. This includes some rather detailed stuff on anyone who has had any kind of political / syndicate activity, etc.
    It's probably better if it's in the open but safeguards on its use would be very welcome as well.

  • Re:Sorry... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mh1997 ( 1065630 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:50AM (#24886005)
    "They don't care that Their gouvernement are watching theim." According to the French Government, 50% of the people that are employed in France, are employed by the government. This means they are watching themselves.
  • by andr0meda ( 167375 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @07:28AM (#24886197) Journal

    I'm surprised to see US and UK people make fun comments about the French over this. US and UK governments aren't exactly known for managing their own records on their citizens with much care either.

    The UK has lost, what, 400.000 personal records on it's citizens?

    The US has had terrorist lists made, leaked to the press, remade, leaked again..

    It's not like France is in this trade alone. Privacy is at stake in every country, including your own. Or what else do you think the War on Terror realy is, other than building databases. The only new thing here, which is truely shocking, is that the system is about minors, who have practically no means to exercise pressure on a governmental system.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @07:31AM (#24886219)

    You've got to admit the people who advocate limited government (i.e. libertarians) are on to something here. The more power and revenue at the disposal of those in power, the more likely oppression and conformity will prevail over liberty and human rights.

    Logically, they can't oppress without the means to do it. I'd go as far as to say the relation between liberty and the size of government is directly proportional. Unfortunately there is no option for those who believe in limited governemnt, because no limited government exists in the world today. Today's governments are richer and more powerful than ever, and expanding in power and revenue every year.

  • Re:Sorry... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @07:35AM (#24886243) Homepage Journal

    Beats raising the remote from a seated position on the couch, I'd say.

  • Re:Sorry... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @08:13AM (#24886451)

    Not good enough, time to use the guillotines, again...

  • by Giant Electronic Bra ( 1229876 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @08:16AM (#24886473)

    The way I see it surveillance and universal identity databases etc are inevitable products of modern technology coupled with human nature. It isn't something we can just close the door on and expect the result to be that such things will simply go away.

    It seems more like a choice between acknowledging that we WILL be surveilled, and that there WILL be such databases or sticking our heads in the sand and denying it. Thus two potential situations can arise. Either the surveillance and data acquisition are surreptitious, covert, and beyond the supervision of the body politic, or they are overt and can be subject to certain oversight and control.

    I would also observe that there are undeniable practical benefits which could be realized by such technologies. Many of these benefits will not be fully realized if they exist in secret and can thus be put to only a limited set of uses. If they are acknowledged and in the open, subject to regulation and control, and available for certain legitimate uses then we may be able to reap great benefits while mitigating the most serious dangers.

    The wise man understands that progress is made in the nature and structure of society, not that of the world. Therefore all progress depends on the wise ;)

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @08:53AM (#24886887) Journal

    Nah. In the UK we pay EDS an outrageous amount of money to fuck it up, then get something 10 years late and 20 times over budget.

    I strongly disagree with this. There is no evidence that EDS have ever managed to deliver a product, even 10 years late. They keep getting government contracts though, because they have lots of experience with government contracts. I'm still in two minds about this. On the one hand, I don't like to see the government wasting so much money. On the other hand, I don't like to see the government being too efficient. Personally, I'd like to see the EU establish a BuSab [wikipedia.org] to take care of this kind of thing.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982