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France’s Big Brother revealed

online surveillance imageFollowing recent revelations about massive extent of telecommunications and internet traffic surveillance carried on by the USA’s NSA and the UK’s GCHQ (news passim), revelations have now emerged in Le Monde, one of France’s leading national newspapers.

In a post today entitled “Revelations about the French Big Brother”, Le Monde reveals that France has a large scale snooping apparatus. The DGSE, the French secret service, is systematically collecting the electromagnetic signals emitted by computers or telephones in France, as well as the traffic between the French and abroad: all of the French population’s communications are spied upon. French politicians are aware of this, but secrecy is the rule: this French Big Brother is clandestine and evades all control.

What the intelligence service is looking is the metadata; their aim is to know who is talking to whom, allegedly to piece together the links between targets and thus to identify “cells”. The DGSE is thus collecting data on millions of telephone subscribers, plus emails, text messages, faxes, etc., plus all internet traffic sent to the likes of Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, etc. The apparatus is alleged to be invaluable for fighting terrorism, but also enables snooping on anybody.

The DGSE is therefore collecting billions of items of data which are compressed and stored in Paris on three floors in the basement of its headquarters on the boulevard Mortier. The intelligence service has a supercomputer capable of handling tens of millions of gigabytes, according to Le Monde.

Other French intelligence services have fully discretionary access to this enormous database; this is termed the “pooling infrastructure”. Certain information can even be used by the police under the cover of “anonymous information”.

French law has made no provision for the bulk storage of technical data by the secret services. “For years we’ve had virtual authorisation,” one old intelligence services boss confides, “and each agency is happy with it.” A French parliamentarian confirms “that a large part of the electronic communications network in France is actually intercepted and [the data] stored by the DGSE”.

However, officials deny that the “pooling infrastructure” actually exists.