France's highest authority on constitutional matters has approved a controversial bill that gives the state sweeping new powers to spy on citizens.
The constitutional council made only minor tweaks to the legislation, which human rights and
privacy campaigners, as well as the United Nations, have described as paving the way for very intrusive surveillance and state-approved eavesdropping and computer-hacking.
An 18-strong United Nations committee for human rights warned that
the surveillance powers granted to French intelligence agencies were excessively broad . It said the the bill grants overly broad powers for very intrusive surveillance on the basis of vast and badly defined objectives and called on
France to guarantee that any interference in private life must conform to principles of legality, proportionality and necessity .
Amnesty International warned that the French state was giving itself extremely large and intrusive powers
with no judicial control.
The bill gives the country's secret services the right to eavesdrop on the digital and mobile phone communications of anyone linked to a terrorist inquiry and install secret cameras and recording devices in
private homes without requesting prior permission from a judge.
Intelligence agencies can also place keylogger devices on computers that record keystrokes in real time. Internet and phone service providers will be forced to install black
boxes that will alert the authorities to suspicious behaviour online. The same companies will be forced to hand over information if asked. Recordings can be kept for a month, and metadata for five years.
A special advisory group, the National
Commission for the Control of Intelligence Techniques, made up of magistrates, MPs and senators from the upper house of parliament, will be consulted instead of a judge.