France’s scary proposal to block public Wi-Fi during emergencies

France’s scary proposal to block public Wi-Fi during emergencies

It was no doubt the intention of the attackers in Paris to change life in France beyond recognition and an internal document seen by Le Monde proves the French way of life may already be under threat from the reaction of police in the country.

The availability of public Wi-Fi during emergencies, as well as the general usage of the IP-obscuring Tor network, may be blocked if pleas from French police to the Interior Ministry make it into two proposed laws scheduled for debate in early 2016.

Although law enforcers say emergency laws need to be updated because it’s difficult to track users of public Wi-Fi, the European Directive for Data Retention Regulations 2009 actually requires all suppliers to hold data of users and log all URLs visited.

Content filtering to block illegal sites is also required under this law, which has filtered down into national government legislation.

While this kind of monitoring is clearly a huge task for every space that offers free wi-fi and it’s not clear to what level this is being done, surely, blocking public Wi-Fi during an emergency is likely to cause panic among those who are trying to find loved ones.

Although, the measures could help prevent similar cases to that of the six people trapped in a Paris supermarket fridge during an attack in January who are suing news outlets for broadcasting their whereabouts.

Technically, it’s not clear whether this would be a directive to local hotspot owners, or some kind of top-down signal block.

Wi-Fi is currently offered for free by the city in almost 300 locations, perhaps offering an easy opportunity to apply a lockdown.

In Chinese-level attempts at surveillance, and as part of a new counter-terrorism bill, the French government is considering blocking distributes server network Tor at the request of local police.

Although it is used by criminals, as well as whistleblowers and journalists, this suggestion has been criticised in the document as being potentially unconstitutional by the Interior Ministry’s own Directorate of Civil Liberties and Legal Affairs.

As well as being potentially unlawful, blocking Tor is almost certainly undoable, as users in China have demonstrated by using non-public entry nodes, or bridges, to help them evade government blacklisters.

The French government could also require ISPs to hand over data that shows if people are using Tor, if not what they’re using it for, which yet again brings privacy and trust issues between government, citizens and companies to the fore.

But, given the huge win by the far-right National Front in the French regional elections, although second-round counting is still underway, the current socialist government clearly doesn’t want to show weakness to its electorate during this tough time.

After Paris Attacks, French Cops Want to Block Tor and Forbid Free Wi-Fi [Motherboard]

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