Feeds

French storm the bastille over 'Sarkozy's Big Sister' database

Je ne suis pas un nombre

High performance access to file storage

Imagine, if you will, an announcement by the UK Government that it is going to create a new database to track anyone over the age of 13, who has been "active in politics or the trade unions or who has a significant role in business, the media, entertainment or social or religious institutions". Let's say 20 million individuals who the authorities believe are "likely to breach public order".

This database would contain information ranging from telephone numbers and details of taxes and assets to sexual orientation.

So far so plausible. Next, imagine the newspapers - except, perhaps, the Express - wading in to condemn this assault on freedom. The Information Commissioner rails against it. Over 100,000 people sign a petition to have it dropped. Lawsuits are filed. The judges condemn it.

Trade Unions and the CBI say no. The Cabinet splits, as Des Browne, Secretary of State for Defence asks why we need it. Labour backbenchers are up in arms.

It just couldn't happen, we hear you say. At least not in the UK.

Except this is exactly what is going on right now in France. It started on 1 July, when the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL), the Office of the French Information Commissioner, forced the Government to publish a hitherto secret decree, authorising creation of a new security database.

Information to be collected via 'Edvige' - a woman's name, meaning, ironically 'sacred battle' - will include: "Civil status and occupation; physical addresses, phone numbers, email addresses; physical characteristics, photographs and behaviour; identity papers."

This latter category is of especial concern. It suggests that Edvige - dubbed "Sarkozy's Big Sister" by opponents - is intended to link directly to the newly created French 8-fingerprint biometric passport as well as to proposed biometric ID cards in future.

In vain, government spokespeople have attempted to calm debate.

They have depicted Edvige as no more than a modernised version of the files gathered by the Renseignements Généraux (RG) - the police intelligence service - who have been spying and collecting information on the activities of French citizens since their establishment by Napoleon. The RG amalgamated this year with the DST (Departement du Surveillance du Territoire), equivalent to Britain's MI5, to form a new super-agency, called the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence).

They have also pointed out that there is already a lot of personal information out there on the internet - on Facebook for instance. So government information-gathering is OK.

However, they are clearly piqued by the failure of critics to understand the purity of their intentions. Slapping down Defence Minister, Hervé Morin, who had the temerity to question the point of such extensive data-gathering, prime minister François Fillon responded rather sharply: "I don't think it is necessary to create suspicion when none exists and I had the occasion to tell him so".

Interior Minister, and law-and-order supremo Michèle Alliot-Marie, added: "It is odd that Mr Morin has not managed to find my telephone number. I would have set his mind at rest."

Softly-softly, seems to be the government stance. Having initially attempted to sneak this measure through without debate, they are now attempting to make a virtue of the public uproar. Arguing that "there is nothing to be worried about," Minister for Immigration and National Identity Brice Hortefeux claims to welcome debate: "Complaints have been filed, let them be examined."

Nonetheless, opposition remains formidable. Francois Bayrou, leader of the centrist MoDem party is against it. So too is Laurence Parisot, head of the Medef employer's union.

Last word, perhaps, to Michel Pezet, a former member of the CNIL agency, who declares: "The Edvige database has no place in a democracy... The electronic Bastille is upon us." ®

Botte-note

Reg readers who would like to sign the petition against Edvige should visit the petition site here. But be patient: it's not quite up to the traffic coming its way, and is frequently down.

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Android engineer: We DIDN'T copy Apple OR follow Samsung's orders
Veep testifies for Samsung during Apple patent trial
MtGox chief Karpelès refuses to come to US for g-men's grilling
Bitcoin baron says he needs another lawyer for FinCEN chat
Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?
And just when Brit banking org needs £400m to stay afloat
One year on: diplomatic fail as Chinese APT gangs get back to work
Mandiant says past 12 months shows Beijing won't call off its hackers
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Big Content goes after Kim Dotcom
Six studios sling sueballs at dead download destination
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Alphadex fires back at British Gas with overcharging allegation
Brit colo outfit says it paid for 347KVA, has been charged for 1940KVA
Jack the RIPA: Blighty cops ignore law, retain innocents' comms data
Prime minister: Nothing to see here, go about your business
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.