French officials claim spying allegations 'hardly resemble reality'

Apple 1984 Big Brother
Who watches the watchmen?

The National Security Agency's (NSA) Prism program has garnered plenty of negative attention over the course of the past few weeks, and rightfully so.

With the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee (CLC) launching a "full inquiry" into just how far the U.S. agency's spying went overseas, it comes as a bit of a surprise to learn one EU country may have a Prism-esque initiative of its own.

On Thursday, French paper Le Monde reported the country's officials have instituted a similar program, which gave the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE) access to phone records and computer browsing habits of France's residents both in-country and abroad.

French President François Hollande had previously spoken out against the NSA's tactics, but now it would appear his words have little meaning.

Le grande frere

The Civil Liberties Committee already expressed concern about programs similar to Prism existing within its own borders, and it looks like they were right to be worried.

Like Prism, Le Monde implicated the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo in participating in the French iteration, and claimed, "all of our communications are spied on."

For what it's worth, a spokesperson for French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told Le Monde all the alleged spying was done in compliance with a 20-year old ruling that requires a judge's permission to intercept transmissions.

Additionally, Judiciary Committee of the Assembly chairman Jean-Jacques Urvoas released his own statement calling the paper's allegations inaccurate and "hardly resembling reality."

"French citizens are not subject to out of control massive and permanent espionage," Urvoas stated.

Who can you trust?

With Prism and now France's own purported spying issue coming to light, there appears to be a pattern developing of governments overstepping their bounds into their residents' privacy.

The European Union is taking the NSA's actions very seriously, and will likely be looking into these new reports about one of its own countries as well.

The CLC is due to report its findings by the end of the year, but by then, who knows how many more instances of such programs may spring up?

There's already suspicion about such initiatives in UK, German, the Netherlands, Poland, and Sweden, which means there are potentially a lot of citizens who should be rightfully concerned about their rights to privacy.

Via Slate, Gigaom