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French MPs to vote on Bill that would allow police to spy through phones

FRENCH politicians were expected to vote later today on a sweeping justice reform Bill that includes allowing police to tap into the cameras, microphones and location services of suspects’ phones.

The proposed law specifies that the procedure can be executed “without the knowledge or consent of its owner or possessor,” but is limited to suspects involved in terrorism, organised crime and other illegal activities punishable by five or more years in prison.

Left-wing parties generally oppose the surveillance provision, but President Emmanuel Macron can potentially rally the conservative Republicans in the lower house to pass the Bill.

The senate, which the opposition right controls, approved the legislation in May.

Under the Bill, the device tapping must be used in real time and the investigating judge must give the green light.

Critics warn the provision still would inevitably lead to abuses of power by French police, who in the past have faced allegations of misuse of authority, brutality and racism.

“We already see that there’s a lot of abuse in France today,” said Bastien Le Querrec, a lawyer with French digital rights group La Quadrature du Net.

“Sadly, yet again, France is a leader in a security strategy where we approach security by surveilling everybody.

“It raises questions on the state of democracy and the state of French institutions.”

Amnesty International France advocacy officer Katia Roux said: “The use of surveillance technologies cannot be the systematic response to security issues.

“The impact on human rights of these technologies must be taken into account before any normalisation of their use.

“Under the guise of legitimate objectives that are linked to security, these technologies also promote violations of human rights, the rights to privacy and freedom of expression.”

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