French government uses PRISM-like technology to spy on its citizens – report

4 Jul 2013

A French newspaper has accused the government of France of engaging in a large-scale PRISM-like surveillance of its citzens, taking in mobile, email, SMS, fax and all internet activity.

Le Monde reported today that Directorate General for External Security (DGSE) systematically spies on electromagnetic signals from computers and phones in France ostensibly to defend the country against terrorist attacks.

The newspaper claims the DGSE is storing data on millions of users’ communications and is storing the data at a containment unit in the basement of the DGSE’s headquarters on Boulevard Mortier in Paris.

All emails, text messages, telephone records, and access to Facebook and Twitter, are reportedly stored for years on the system.

The revelation comes on the heels of claims by rogue CIA contractor Edward Snowden about the surveillance tactics of the US national security authorities, as well as information-sharing practices involving the UK government.

Code-named Tempora, the UK programme has been running for more than 18 months and takes in recordings of phone calls, email message content, Facebook messages and any users’ internet history.

French intelligence agencies are understood to be using a supercomputer capable of handling tens of millions of gigabytes of data to trawl through its citizens’ communications.

Le Monde reported that a number of French intelligence agencies have access to the massive database under the guise of “anonymous information” or “information sharing.”

However, the National Commission on Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) said the existence of the supercomputer is illegal.

“The legal system prohibits the interception of communications using security implemented by the intelligence services using such procedures as PRISM,” the CNIL said.

Prism image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years