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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 Yvanhoe ( 564877 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @04:41AM (#24885435) Journal
    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. There has been a lot of reorganization in our intelligence agencies recently, akin to a merge between your CIA and FBI (Our president is a huge fan of all that Bush has ever made). I suspect this edvige file is a part of it. Probably a merge between two shadowy databases of the two agencies.

    Now, protests are two edged swords. If protests are too loud, this file will still exist, in a concealed way, if it is not loud enough, it will be abused. 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.
  • by Maelwryth ( 982896 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:09AM (#24885587) Homepage
    I don't know if it is the same in Australia, but over here in N.Z. half our government is made up of ex-activists, including the prime minister.
    In short, our activists of today are our government of tomorrow.
  • by Tazor ( 775513 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:11AM (#24885603)
    Maybe they should start using one of these [] again? Maybe that would convince the politicians to think again.
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:12AM (#24885605)

    Not all activists are the same though. If you look at the recent activists arrested before the RNC they were planning some serious shit - []

    The affidavit paints a picture of a group that recruited participants from 67 cities and was intent on creating havoc.

    According to the document:

    * The RNC Welcoming Committee held two "pReNC" gatherings, one from Aug. 31 through Sept. 1, 2007, and another on May 3. At the first, 150 to 200 people - including one of the informants - talked about tactics to "shut down the RNC." At the second, St. Paul was divided into seven sectors for various anarchist groups to claim.

    * The affidavit also talked about an "action camp" held July 31 to Aug. 3 at Lake Geneva, Minn.

    * "An individual by the name of 'Henry' told the action camp group that he was throwing a liquid-filled balloon and that members of the group should stay away from the area ... because it would be very dangerous," the document said.

    * Another person talked about using large puppets to conceal and transport Molotov cocktails, bricks, caltrops (devices used to stop buses and other vehicles), shields and lockboxes, the affidavit said. They also planned to throw marbles under the horses of the mounted patrol to trip the horses.

    I like this bit

    On Tuesday, District Judge Kathleen Gearin denied an emergency motion brought by eight plaintiffs - including at least one of those arrested - to have some of the items seized by police returned to them.

    "Who should we return the urine to?" Gearin asked.

    In addition to buckets of urine, investigators seized homemade devices used to disable buses and other vehicles, weapons, gas masks, flammable liquids and rags that could be used to make Molotov cocktails, computer storage devices, documents, pamphlets and banners. Some materials, such as banners and signs, were returned Monday for demonstrators to use during the protest marches. Albert Goins Sr., attorney for the plaintiffs, said they are likely to file an emergency appeal to get the rest of it back.

    So the evil government did infiltrate the group and seized a bunch of stuff. But they gave back banners and signs. Then the group complained they needed the Molotov cocktails, balloons full of dangerous chemicals, bricks, caltrops, marbles and buckets of urine back!

    Who should we return the urine to indeed.

    Look at this pictures of 'anarchists' attacking an RNC delegates []

    These people are more like the brownshirts breaking up their opponents meetings than hippies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:31AM (#24885689)

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

    I wish New Labour would stop giving the left a bad name. Check the political compass [], Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are about as left wing as Margaret Thatcher.

  • by dargaud ( 518470 ) <slashdot2@gdarga[ ]net ['ud.' in gap]> on Friday September 05, 2008 @05:55AM (#24885779) Homepage
    That's really too bad as the Loi Informatique et Liberte [] (link in french) is a law meant against abusive data gathering from the state. In short, the original intent was that every entity (ministers, private companies, ...) can keep you in their files, but they are forbidden to correlate their files.

    You can have a tax number, a social security number, an ID card, a driver's license, etc, but those numbers cannot be mixed in a bigger database. That was the original intent anyway, and it did prevent a lot of abuse. It was a good law while it lasted. Sob.

  • by LEMONedIScream ( 1111839 ) <<lemonjellly> <at> <>> on Friday September 05, 2008 @06:56AM (#24886039)

    Question: is the New Zealand government a good or bad one in your opinion?

    I'm actually a bit lost as to what you're saying; are you suggesting all people in the government are bad? Or was it just a statement with nothing meant by it?

    Surely, wouldn't it make more sense to become a politician if you're an activist then?

    Anyway, direct democracy for the win!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @07:06AM (#24886075)

    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.

    The RG (Renseignements Généraux) database was neither illegal or hidden practice. Edvige is the old RG database + under 16 people + the right to record sexual orientation (why they need that?).

    The big problems with edvige are:
    - the records are potentially never deleted,
    - acces control (the database is available for consultation with minimal control to any police officer)
        When I was 16, the pastor of my parents inform my mother that there was a note about me at gendarmerie. I wonder how a pastor can have access to this kind of information.

  • Re:Sorry... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @07:09AM (#24886097)

    Nope, french people (I am one) are more willing to strike for salaries, work week duration, educational strategic changes, be paid for 15 month per year (in the Lyon public transport company) than protesting against our world record taxes on gasoline (> 80% +19.6% VAT !!!), or against our entire population filled into a database we don't know wich it will be used for.
    That's it : we know, but consequences are obscure for everybody (specialized lawyers included) who don't work in government.

    Moreover, the most frightening is the variety of contents in this electronic bastille :
    - Political or syndical association
    - Sexual orientation
    - Drug abuse reports
    - DNA footprint
    - fingerprints
    - pictures
    - lot of other various data minded by police services
    Of course, honest people her will say : we dont't care, we have nothing to reproach, they sucks and are totally inconscient of damage ths kind of database causes to liberty and democraty.

    Unlike in the US (from our froggies point of view), here police violence and abuses is some kind of normal, and is never revealed by journalists (they work for gov too), and there are case everydays that passes.

    If you were thinking the France is still a democraty, you're totally wrong !!! we are no more than other western countries, and by some ways we tend to be like eastern country called Russia.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 05, 2008 @07:29AM (#24886205)
    yes, it is a shame to see such database in mordern country. 1984 from Orwell is so in phase with what happened around the world: impossible to travel without fingerprint scanned in US, medical data monitored in smart card (Carte Vitale, France), and now this database.

    you definitively have to read this book (sorry, just in french for now, but maybe there will be english translation):
    Le Maitre des Noms (the master of the names) of Josef LADIK.
    the name is a pseudo (as stated in the back of the book) and the writer is a prosecutor who definitively seems to know about what it talks! []

    have fun and keep flying under the radar :)
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @07:48AM (#24886309) Homepage Journal

    Various social critics in the tradition of Focault (Michel, not Leon) have been predicting this kind of thing for years.

    Starting more or less from first principles, they predicted that attempts to collect information on private individuals will tend to expand regardless of how useless or even counterproductive those efforts are. These kinds of things only stop growing when they get large enough to encounter some practical limitation. It might be budget, it might be technology, or it might even be people taking to the streets to protest.

  • Re:Truth: (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @08:47AM (#24886813)

    Public order is antithetical to democracy.

    That is manifestly untrue.

    What you mean is probably that public order is antithetical to freedom; which is still a rather dubious statement. Democracy is not some magical substance that guarantees freedom or anything else - it is only a form of government that allows part of the citizens a measure of influence on the government's decision making. It is perfectly possible to imagine a democratic society where everybody is happy and feels no need for unrest. Democracy was not introduced because it looked like a bloody good idea at the time - it was introduced because it was hoped that it would help solve the problems with unrest caused by the government not representing the people.

  • by IDtheTarget ( 1055608 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @09:00AM (#24886955)

    Actually, in the United States there are already private companies that gather all of this information and offer it for sale. I know this for a fact, as in my civilian job I work for a state law enforcement agency that purchases this product for criminal intelligence investigations.

    I can't remember the name of the service we use, and I'm in Iraq so I can't go down the hall to ask our any of our intelligence analysts what the software is, I just recall that they output information in a format that works with Analyst Notebook (tm).

  • by russotto ( 537200 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @10:37AM (#24888105) Journal

    In short, our activists of today are our government of tomorrow.

    Which simply leaves them in a better position to understand the weaknesses of the new activists, and crush them to prevent a repeat of history.

    That's why most forms of activism are no longer a viable means to change things -- the government has adapted to the tactics.

  • by no1home ( 1271260 ) on Friday September 05, 2008 @12:43PM (#24889785)

    And VERY MUCH like Joe Lieberman, the Democrat-turned-Independent Senator: A tax & spend liberal who wants to bring religion and censorship into politics.

"There is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress." -- Mark Twain