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by François Taillandier

Technical inspection

Sarkozy’s France

Translated Tuesday 22 September 2009, by Karen Grimwade

“In what is an unprecedented move, we are going to accelerate the installation of surveillance cameras”, announced the French President the other day. The announcement sends shivers up the spine, especially the “unprecedented move”. However, it would be wrong to denounce the scheming ways of a repressive right eternally obsessed with security. The problem goes much deeper and transcends the political divide.

There are already electronic boards on the motorways that can display in real time “452QB56, you are driving too fast”. Why not give the driver’s name while we’re at it? And send a text message to their wife or husband? I approve of imprudent drivers being sanctioned, but I object to the practice of saying “we know where you are, when, and what you are doing there”, on account of it being a breach of privacy and an assault on freedom of movement.

However, this widespread use of networks for monitoring purposes is not just the work of the government. I recently made a visit to Italy. I had barely exited the Fréjus Tunnel when I received a text message from Orange saying “Welcome to Italy Mr Taillandier. Orange is offering you free text messages throughout your trip.” I pay Orange to provide me with a mobile telephone service, and I’m well aware that the change in network informs them of my presence in Italy. But for the same reasons that I gave earlier, I object to them having the right to record that information and to make any kind of comment on it, whatever the reason.

The other day at the Luxembourg RER station, I discovered that it is no longer possible to buy tickets there with cash, and I remembered having read that the main transport companies were studying ways of implementing card-only payment. Well, for reasons that I am not obliged to divulge, I am against such assaults on my inviolable right to buy a train ticket without it ever appearing on a bank statement.

That is why I say that these technical aberrations that compromise individual liberties go beyond the question of right or left, because I have difficulty believing that a left-wing government would take down all the cameras tomorrow and demand that the aforementioned companies put a stop to their abuse of rights. In any case, I have never heard an opposition leader express concern over this matter. It just goes to show that there are some political issues that seem to elude them completely, and this is just one of many.

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