A bill on geolocation in France

A bill on geolocation in France

A bill to specify measures linked with geolocation in France is being brought to the French Senate. This text includes several measures concerning methods of locating people when investigating a criminal nature.
This bill will follow a specific procedure: the text will not suffer a single reading (followed by a vote) in each assembly, i.e. the National Assembly and the Senate. There will be no going back and forth between the two rooms, for the text to be voted in identical terms.

This text becomes a subject in a somewhat special legal context. Indeed, the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights have canceled different procedures between 2010 and 2013, due to investigations had used geolocation without permission. These courts explained their decision,by mentioning that those methods used by the police violated Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights .

This provision implies, for any person, the right to respect for “private and family life, home and correspondence.” Of course, exceptions may exist to counter this principle if necessary but do not integrate geolocation. That is why a regulatory framework should be put in place.

The bill thus regulating measures related to geolocation by focusing not only on access to data held by telecom operators but also laying tags in investigations. The text therefore relates the real-time monitoring of a terminal or a mobile object to localize someone.

Article 1 states that such methods can only be used when investigating an offense that may lead to a prison sentence greater than or equal to five years. It is therefore to regulate uses when it comes to investigating the causes of death , disappearance or when leaks people.

It is proposed that if investigation of a crime or offense, a police officer can program installation of such geolocation tools in a vehicle, a parking lot or private place, including home. When it comes to a preliminary investigation, the judge of freedom may allow such methods to be used for a maximum of 15 days. It can then extend the use of this method for a period of one month (renewable).

When the situation is of “imminent risk of losing evidence or serious to persons or property infringement”, the authorization geolocation may be issued by someone else than a judge. However, on this point, the law remains unclear since it must define, via a dedicated decree, which may be empowered to grant such authority. For now, the draft mentions only “qualified service agents, unit or agency under the authority or supervision of the Minister of Security.”

Before the parliamentary debates begin, actors from the digital sector have expressed their opposition to certain measures contained in the bill. Thus, the Association of Community Internet Services (ASIC), which represents some Web giants like AOL, Dailymotion , eBay , Deezer, Facebook , Google, Microsoft , Yahoo … expressed their concerns on some parts of the bill project.

In a statement, the ASIC estimates that this language “tends to allow geolocation not only for any vehicle and any phone number, but any object as explicitly stated.” The association is concerned that any connected object can enter the law field. That is why the group wants the scope of geolocation to be applied only “as monitoring a mobile phone number or transporting vehicles.”

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