France investigates role of internet companies in PRISM

France investigates role of internet companies in PRISM

Summary: France has launched a probe into whether internet companies violated domestic privacy laws by participating in PRISM.

TOPICS: Legal, Privacy, EU

The Paris prosecutor's office has opened a preliminary investigation into the roles that internet companies played in the US surveillance program PRISM.

The investigation, which opened in mid-July, according to reports, followed complaints filed with the prosecutor's office earlier that month filed by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the French Human Rights League (LDH).

Based on documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the two groups named Apple, AOL, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Paltalk, and Yahoo as potential accomplices of the NSA and FBI in the program.

According to Le Figaro, police began examining claims of fraudulent access to automated data processing systems, illegal collection of personal data, invasion of privacy, and violation of private correspondence on 16 July. The FIDH estimates that between December 202 and January 2013, two million communications (phone calls, SMS or emails) were intercepted in France by those involved in PRISM, the paper says.

The Paris prosecutor's investigation is a preliminary one, and the first step to determining whether a formal investigation should be launched, according to Reuters.

Separately, the French data protection authority CNIL (Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés) has has set up a working group on access to French citizens' personal data by foreign public authorities. Meanwhile Europe's Article 29 Working Party is investigating the potential impact of PRISM on European citizens. 

Topics: Legal, Privacy, EU

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • Who believes France doesn't have its own NSA?

    It's naive to think France and other governments aren't doing the same thing as NSA, only with even less protection of citizen privacy than we have in the US.
    In addition to the anonymizing and encryption tools, there's now a growing number of private cloud providers emerging, like Cloudlocker (, that eliminate the fatal flaws of Dropbox,etc. I think the personal cloud providers are eventually going to take over this space.
    John Reynolds
    • On the contrary

      European privacy laws are quite strict, and in addition, the European Court of Human Rights exists as an arbiter of compliance with human rights independent of any single national government.

      While France does have an internet listening operation, the legal recourse against it is far stronger than in the US.