France passed a “Patriot Act” of its own yesterday, four months after the Charlie Hebdo attacks rattled the nation. The bill grants France’s intelligence agencies broad authorities to tap phones, intercept emails, and monitor web traffic using methods similar to those employed by the NSA. The Financial Times:
The bill allows French agents to plug “black boxes” directly into networks and servers owned by telecom and internet operators to monitor digital traffic and, in the case of suspected terrorists, monitor their behaviour with the help of algorithms that analyse suspects’ metadata.
It’s important to note that the act also allows more spying internationally, and not just on terrorists:
Aside from giving the security services powers to tap phone calls and read emails, it is designed to protect the country’s economic, scientific and “essential foreign policy” interests, combat organised crime and prevent “collective violence” that could “seriously” disrupt public order.
European states have a long tradition of activist state security policies that often make the U.S. look libertarian by comparison. As the threat grows from radical Islam, expect other countries to step up their own surveillance.
States rarely abstain from things that they have the power to do with ease. Modern IT has reduced the cost of state surveillance drastically, and states everywhere, whether they acknowledge this openly or not, are moving to take advantage of their new capabilities. Ironically, Americans will likely end up with more protection against an intrusive government that the Europeans who so loudly cheered Edward Snowden and booed the NSA; historically, American political culture has been more successful at limiting state power grabs than other Atlantic countries, and that history is likely to repeat in the 21st century.