NSA-Style Surveillance, The French Version

An interesting story for those interested in comparative law:

[T]he newspaper Le Monde disclosed on Thursday that France has its own large program of data collection, which sweeps up nearly all the data transmissions, including telephone calls, e-mails and social media activity, that come in and out of France.

Le Monde reported that the General Directorate for External Security does the same kind of data collection as the American National Security Agency and the British GCHQ, but does so without clear legal authority.

The system is run with “complete discretion, at the margins of legality and outside all serious control,” the newspaper said, describing it as “a-legal.”

Nonetheless, the French data is available to the various police and security agencies of France, the newspaper reported, and the data is stored for an indeterminate period. The main interest of the agency, the paper said, is to trace who is talking to whom, when and from where and for how long, rather than in listening in to random conversations. But the French also record data from large American networks like Google and Facebook, the newspaper said.