It has been almost a year since Edward Snowden revealed NSA program of mass surveillance in the United States. However, we tend to easily forget or the media tend to focus their investigation on the American case. Those programs of surveillance also had a strong international impact. It has almost been a year since Edward Snowden’s revealed the truth but this is not the end. Just few days ago, a newly found report revealed another case – France’s leading Telecom Company, Orange, with more than 26 million clients (out of the total 60 million) had been giving access to all of the company’s data to the DGSE, France intelligence agency, for around 30 years. As you can imagine the fact that this had been going on for close to 30 years brings another light onto the matter.
This latest revelation appears few months after one of the leading newspaper, Le Monde, discovered that France also had its own program of surveillance targeting phone communication, emails and any type of online data. The program collected billions of metadata elements such as call history, destination, length, content and texts senders, recipients, content, size as well as emails subject and content… No other telco has been implied in the story, yet.
Despite the importance of such revelation, the overall reaction in France remained highly moderate. The rapid denial coming from the office of the Prime Minister appeased the debate. Contrarily to the PRISM program in the US which had been confronted with multiple limitation in its surveillance system; the one established in France was not. The DGSE was simply not restricted by any law and was given full access to all of Orange’s data with no restriction whatsoever. At least, this is what the company CEO claims. He personally has absolutely no knowledge of the situation. According to him, that particular situation does not offer other alternatives to telco but to comply with the law. Orange did not have and still does not have the power or possibilities to resist the DGSE. In his official explanation, the CEO Stéphane Richard described how this system works. Only very few people in the business had been allowed to deal and manage the relationship between the company and the state. And those who were in talk with the DGSE were not and did not have to refer the matter to him. No comments have been given by the government or the intelligence agency since the revelation.
Keep in mind that France has a very specific system. Despite the fact that Orange has been operating as a private company for years, the French government still owns a 27% stake in the company. This surely must have facilitate the DGSE task to get Orange’s data. The story also revealed that the implication of the French government could be at a greater scale that the agreement between the US government and big internet companies.