Digital Civil Rights in Europe

Article published in EDRi-gram 6.18

Following a very strong opposing movement, the decree allowing the creation of EDVIGE file has been abandoned by the French Government, but it will be replaced by a modified project called now EDVIRSP.

On 1 July 2008, the French Government had announced a project creating a huge database, EDVIGE (Exploitation documentaire et valorisation de l’information générale – Documentary exploitation and valorisation of general information) which would have systematically gathered information on any person having applied for or exercised a political, union or economical mandate or playing a significant institutional, economical, social or religious part as well as information on any person considered by the police as a “suspect” potentially capable of disrupting the public order.

The decree was very rapidly and strongly opposed by a large number of associations, organizations, political parties, unions and individuals. Almost 200 000 signatures and 1200 associations have supported a petition against the decree and 12 organizations, among which four main labour unions, main Lesbian and Gay associations, the French Human Rights League, and French EDRi-member IRIS, have filed a complaint before the French highest administrative court to have this decree cancelled. As a result, the French Government has given up the decree and the prime minister’s office announced on 18 September a new decree having in view a modified file called EDVIRSP (Exploitation documentaire et valorisation de l’information relative à la sécurité publique – Documentary exploitation and valorisation of information related to public security).

Differently from EDVIGE, the new file will explicitly exclude information related to people’s health or sexual orientation, but will keep other sensitive personal data such as ethnical origin, as well as political, philosophical, religious opinions or union affiliation. In addition, it will no longer allow police to collect data in the same file on people belonging to political parties, unions or religious groups only because of their activities. The criteria for data gathering will be related to perceived security threats.

Although a first victory for the opponents of EDVIGE, the new decree is still far from being satisfactory. The new text still allows the police to store data on minors starting the age of 13 if they are considered a threat to public safety. A “right to oblivion” was also introduced meaning the data gathered on minors is to be deleted when coming of age 18, except for the case when a new element occurs between 16 and 18, where the data is deleted at 21.

The 12 organizations having filed the complaint against EDVIGE, together with the large coalition of petition signatories, consider it is unacceptable for the database to include minors, especially when they haven’t committed any offence, and ask for stronger guarantees that citizens’ rights and freedoms would be respected, starting from their right to the presumption of innocence. They continue to call for the withdrawal of the entire decree.

The new project has been sent to The French Data Protection Authority (Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés) which should give its opinion in a month.

Opponents to the database have called for a day of demonstrations on 16 October, on the occasion of Sainte Edwige’s day of the Roman Catholic calendar.

Files: from Edvige to EDVIRSP, a capital change (only in French, 21.09.2008)…

Edvige:”insufficient rebound” (SM) (only in French, 20.09.2008)…

EDVIGE file becomes EDVIRSP (only in French, 20.09.2008)…

Edvige file : the opponents stay vigilant (only in French, 19.09.2008)…

RAS – Petition in order to obtain the abandoning of EDVIGE file (only in French)

France drops plan for political database after row (18.09.2008)

EDRi-gram: ENDitorial: Massive mobilization against EDVIGE, the new French database (16.07.2008)

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