Diclaimer: homemade translation of the article written in french by La Quadrature Du Net (LQDN). For any mistake or improvement, send e-mail to contact_at_bidouille93_dot_fr. External resources are in French.
France, first european country to legalize biometric surveillance.⌗
The article 7 of the Law on Olympic Games’ organization has been adopted by the national parliament, “Assemblée Nationale”, formalizing the introduction of Algorithmic Video-Surveillance (AVS) in french Law, until December 2024. Thanks to the fuss regarding the retirements reform and an expeditive-as-usual process, French government made acceptable one of the most dangerous technology ever deployed. Using lies and fake storytellings, it avoided the technical, political and judicial consequences in terms of mass surveillance. Supported by the governmental majority and far-right parties, AVS has been legalized backed by lies, undermining the democratic game ever more.
The lie of biometry : government repeated and wrote down in the law that AVS is not related to biometry. This is completely wrong. This technology identifies, analyzes, classifies constantly the bodies, physical attributes, gestures, body shapes, gait, which are unquestionably biometric datas. We already explained it (see our note or video), tiredlessly told it to members of senat and parliament, representatives or their assistants, long with 38 other international organizations and some mEP (member of European Parliament) who recently called out the french government. Despite, french government stood with its lies, both technical and judicial. France is once again violating EU’s law, consecrating its title of europe surveillance’s champion.
The lie of usefulness : government used the Olympic games as a pretext to faster achieve a long-running agenda, to legalize these technologies, keeping close to a “tradition” widely observed, which profit from international mega-events. The government convinced of the necessity to “spot suspicious packages” or “prevent massive crowd movements”. These events suddenly became the top priority for the Ministry of the Interior and some deputies, who resume the security of the Olympics to these issues, rarely identified as a priority in casual times, and which get a resolution more from human competences than technologies, as we’ve demonstrated here. AVS acceptance relies on a well implanted myth according to which technology would magically ensure security, without any honest evaluation or demonstration of these very opaque technologies’ usefulness has been made.
The technical lie : AVS’ main application is to identify behaviours, previously defined as suspect by the police. Arbitrary and dangerous by design, the way these algorithms work has never been explained by the government: because it is not understood by most of those who decide… Inexcusable incompetence or assumed diversion, in the end, the level of the parlementary debate was extremely low, certainly not at what’s to expect regarding the dramatic issues raised by these biometric technologies. Helped by Guillaume Vuillemet and Sacha Houlié, both from the governmental party and some other deputies, a minimization rethoric directly inspired from AVS’ companies marketing narratives, along with lies and technical nonsense dominated. It shows clearly the incapacity of the Parliament to discuss technical questions, and moreover the society’s legitimate fear for the future to come, considering how our representatives ar unable to apprehend the threats of the next emerging technologies.
As police brutalities overwhelm our screens, and police, armed with clubs, assures the after-sales service of the most impopular regulations, the increasing police surveillance participates to a global strategy to stifle any contestation.
These schemes allowing the State to divert the reality of its surveillance prerogatives must be denounced. Particularly in a context where the meaning of words are deliberately twisted to make us believe that “surveillance is protection”, that “security is freedom”, and “democracy is a forcing through”. It is necessary to expose and counter this fake democratic game, and to ever question the extraordinary powers given to the french police. No need to talk about a “chinese” dystopia to realize the height of the stakes. Better look in France’s history and present political climate to take the measure and understand the twenty years long security drift : always more cameras, surveillance and databases, while depoliticizing social stakes, and a loss of sense amongst politics in charge. As a result, the Olympics’ law debates shed the light on the political disorientation of decision-makers, unable to question these issues.
This first legalization of automated video-surveillance is a winning step for French security industry. Those who’ve been asking for years to test their algorithms on the people, to improve them and sell the technologies worldwide, are now satisfied. Soon, Thales, XXII, Two-I and Neuroo, will soon be allowed to sell biometric softwares to other states, like Idemia sold its facial recognition software to China. The startup XXII couldn’t even wait the law to be voted to loudly announce she raised 22 million euros to become, in its own words “the european leader” of AVS.
The institutions in charge of preserving liberties, such as the CNIL, are totally failing. Born in 1978 gifted with real and efficient counter powers to document the governmental surveillance ambitions, it is now the after-sales service of governmental regulations and carefully helps companies to use a “good” surveillance, in order to preserve the industry’s economical interests, without any consideration about collective rights and liberties.
This legal event creates a precedent and opens the gates to every other biometric surveillance technologies: algorithmic audio-surveillance, facial recognition, biometric tracking…
We won’t give up the fight and will keep denouncing government’s lies, we’ll be present as soon as the first experimentation will start to document the inevitable abuses these technologies lead to. We will find ways to contest them in courts and will fight for these experimentation to remain temporary and prevent making them durable. And we’ll keep refusing these technologies and the Technopolice they incorporate, by fighting on a european level to obtain their interdiction.
So if you want to help us in this struggle, stay tuned for what we’ll be up to in the month to come and if you can, donate.
Translated by Kholah
Original article by La Quadrature Du Net
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