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Next up for France: police keyloggers and Web censorship


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Having just passed its super-controversial Création et Internet "graduated response" law, you might think the French government would take at least a brief break from riling up the "internautes." Instead, the government is prepping a new crime bill that will, among other things, mandate Internet censorship at the ISP level, legalize government spyware, and create a massive meta-database of citizen information called "Pericles."

French newspaper Le Monde has the details on the new law, dubbed "Loppsi 2." Together with the recent Dadvsi law (which banned DRM circumvention) and Création et Internet (which disconnects repeat online copyright infringers), Loppsi 2 will "fix" France's various cybersecurity issues.

Think of the children

Loppsi 2 allows the state to install software that can "observe, collect, record, save, and transmit" keystrokes from computers on which it is installed. In essence, it allows for government-installed Trojans for a period of four months; a judge can extend this period for four months more.

In the US, the FBI has used similar techniques for several years, installing a program called CIPAV on suspects' computers to record and transmit "pen register" data back to investigators.

Under Loppsi 2, French ISPs would also need to participate in a Web censorship regime that initially appears targeted at child pornography. Critics like Jean-Michel Planche, who advises the French government on Internet issues, are already calling the new bill the end of an open and neutral Internet.

Finally, the bill allows for a database called "Pericles" that can pull together information from various existing French databases to create a "super-dossier" on people. According to Le Monde, such a database could contain all sorts of crucial, personal information, and sounds certain to set off the same debates that have taken place in the US whenever similar projects have been floated.

Oh—and did we mention that Loppsi 2 funds all sorts of other crime-fighting techniques, including automated camera systems that record the license plates of cars passing by on the motorway?

Taken together, the Loppsi 2 draft shows just how serious the Sarkozy government is about getting some control over this crazy Internet thing that all the kids are using now. Actually, this is a situation playing out in most developed countries at the moment, and it's not yet clear whether a global consensus will emerge on how to deal with law enforcement challenges on the 'Net.

Numerous countries in Europe already run Internet child porn blacklists; massive government databases exist or are being developed just about everywhere; graduated response laws are slowly moving into the mainstream. France just seems more interested than most in adopting all of these ideas in the shortest possible timeframe.

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