French police to add extra data to intelligence files

The Conseil d’Etat has authorised police to collect data such as political opinions and religious beliefs, causing concern among critics of the new law

6 January 2021
The Conseil d'Etat building in Paris. French police allowed to add extra data to intelligence filesThe new law was approved by the Conseil d'Etat - France's supreme court and legal advisor to the government
By Joanna York

Police and gendarmes in France will now be allowed to add extra information to intelligence files including political opinions, religious beliefs, union membership, and health data. Usernames, photos and comments posted on social media platforms can also be kept on file, as well as records of mental health issues that “reveal a dangerous nature”.

The new rules were authorised by the Conseil d’Etat on January 4, in the name of “the safety of the state”, despite protests by unions that believe holding such information in the files could be dangerous.

In response to opposition, the Conseil d’Etat maintained that the new regulations would not threaten freedom of opinion, religious freedom or freedom to choose a union.

Unions in opposition of the new law included legal unions (le Syndicat de la magistrature and le Syndicat des avocats de France) education unions (FSU) and national trade unions (CGT and FO).

 

Three types of file expanded

Three types of intelligence file are affected by the new law:  

  • Police Pasp files, for preventing attacks on public safety
  • Gendarmerie Gipasp files, for managing information and preventing attacks on public safety
  • EASP files, for administrative inquiries linked to public safety, used in recruiting public servants for sensitive roles

Previously these files were limited to documenting instances of hooliganism and violent protestors. 

They will now contain information on people suspected of terrorist activity, or thought likely to “carry out attacks in France or against institutions of the Republic”.

Detractors have said this definition is too vague, and could open a legal pathway to mass surveillance of people in France – something the interior minister has denied.

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