Op­po­si­tion grows to ‘mon­ster’ data­base of French cit­i­zens

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

French gov­ern­ment plans to cre­ate a new data­base con­tain­ing de­tails of al­most the en­tire pop­u­la­tion suf­fered fresh blows yes­ter­day as crit­i­cism grew of the con­tro­ver­sial project. The So­cial­ist gov­ern­ment an­nounced a de­cree to cre­ate the data­base, which would con­tain per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of 60 mil­lion peo­ple, on a pub­lic hol­i­day week­end at the end of October.

It has led to fears that hack­ers might tar­get the in­for­ma­tion as well as anx­i­ety that so much per­sonal data could be mis­used in the fu­ture by the security forces or other gov­ern­ment agen­cies. The stealth­ily is­sued de­cree, pub­lished two days af­ter Hal­loween, led op­po­si­tion MP Lionel Tardy to ac­cuse the gov­ern­ment last week of “treat­ing the French peo­ple like pump­kins”.

Yes­ter­day, the French Dig­i­tal Coun­cil, a state watch­dog that looks at the im­pact of tech­nol­ogy on so­ci­ety and the econ­omy, said the data­base should be sus­pended. Amass­ing so much per­sonal in­for­ma­tion­names, eye colour, ad­dress, photo and dig­i­tal fin­ger­prints-in one place leaves “the door open to mis­use that is as likely as it is un­ac­cept­able,” it con­cluded.

Dig­i­tal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Ax­elle Le­maire was also quoted by Opin­ion mag­a­zine Mon­day as say­ing that is­su­ing the de­cree “think­ing that it would pass with­out be­ing known or seen” was a “ma­jor dys­func­tion”. The in­te­rior min­istry says its in­ten­tion is to bring to­gether sep­a­rate data­bases used to is­sue pass­ports and France’s na­tional iden­tity cards, which would lead to greater ef­fi­ciency and bet­ter data security.

It is in­tended to help fight iden­tity fraud, and the bio­met­ric in­for­ma­tion will not be used by po­lice or ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties to iden­tify sus­pects, the min­istry prom­ises. The cre­ation of a na­tional data­base has been re­peat­edly pro­posed by French gov­ern­ments, with at­tempts in 2012 by the then cen­tre-right gov­ern­ment to cre­ate one re­jected by the coun­try’s high­est court.

France’s Na­tional Data Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion (CNIL) was cre­ated in 1978 fol­low­ing a scan­dal over se­cret gov­ern­ment at­tempts to link their data­bases, which was re­vealed by the press. CNIL has sug­gested a par­lia­men­tary de­bate on the new project, with a So­cial­ist com­mis­sion mem­ber ac­cus­ing the gov­ern­ment of want­ing to cre­ate “a sort of mon­ster”. —AFP

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