French Constitutional Council: Wireless Communication Intercepts Are Illegal

“The secrecy of correspondence is a fundamental legal principle enshrined in the constitutions of several European countries. It guarantees that the content of sealed letters is never revealed and letters in transit are not opened by government officials or any other third party. It is thus the main legal basis for the assumption of privacy of correspondence.”

Barbier

For the last 25 years, French Intelligence services have been allowed to intercept – without any democratic control – all wireless communications including mobile phones, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth… All that was needed was to claim that the intercepts were needed for reasons of National Security. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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Secrecy of Correspondence

The secrecy of correspondence is a fundamental legal principle enshrined in the constitutions of several European countries. It guarantees that the content of sealed letters is never revealed and letters in transit are not opened by government officials or any other third party. It is thus the main legal basis for the assumption of privacy of correspondence.

The principle has been naturally extended to other forms of communication, including telephony and electronic communications on the Internet as the constitutional guarantees are generally thought to cover also these forms of communication. However, national telecommunications privacy laws may allow lawful interception, i.e. wiretapping and monitoring of electronic communications in cases of suspicion of crime. [WIKIPEDIA]

A Fundamental Right

The secrecy of correspondence is protected by the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

A Gigantic Legal Loophole

However, a short sentence in a 1991 law — re-drafted in 2015 — made it possible for the French Intelligence Agencies to ‘wiretap’ anyone without any democratic control.

The Ruling of Constitutional Council

On Friday 21 october 2016, the Constitutional Council ruled that the exception is illegal and bypasses the “Code d’Instruction Criminelle”. The Constitutional Council stated that the text does not respect the Constitution and must be re-written before the end of 2017.

REFERENCES

Surveillance hertzienne : le Conseil constitutionnel censure la loi renseignement

Article L. 811-5 de la loi renseignement — juillet 2015

« Les mesures prises par les pouvoirs publics pour assurer, aux seules fins de défense des intérêts nationaux, la surveillance et le contrôle des transmissions empruntant la voie hertzienne ne sont pas soumises aux dispositions du présent livre, ni à celles de la sous-section 2 de la section 3 du chapitre Ier du titre III du livre Ier du code de procédure pénale. »

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French Constitutional Council: Wireless Communication Intercepts Are Illegal

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