Behavior Check Proposal Withdrawn in France

21 December 2010

A proposed amendment to France’s security and access to information laws which would have required background behavior checks on users of government information has been withdrawn, according to two groups following the legislation.

Access Info Europe and Regards Citoyens said in a press release Dec. 20 that the proposed amendment “was significantly changed” in the French parliament on Dec. 16 following an international campaign by 35 organizations and experts from 25 countries which had raised concerns that the new law would seriously constrain both access to information and freedom of expression. Read the campaign letter here.

The groups reported that: “As a result, multiple members of parliament from all political groups proposed either to change the dangerous amendment or to withdraw it. The version eventually adopted no longer refers to France’s access to information law and only requires “morality” checks on users of the national database of car number plates.”

“Some could still argue that having such personal data accessible for commercial marketing purposes is unacceptable, but that will be up to the Senate to discuss in a couple months. Today the threat to open public data has been withdrawn,” said Benjamin Ooghe-Tabanou, co-founder of Regards Citoyens.

“The immediate danger for the right to information has passed,” commented Helen Darbishire of Access Info Europe, “but there remains a concern that a special legal regime has been adopted to give a handful of businesses privileged access to personal data.”

The groups remain concerned about other measures adopted by the French parliament include administrative filtering of internet content without judicial oversight, something human rights organizations said they fear will lead to censorship of the internet. Read more here.

The two organizations called on the French government to focus on a broader initiative to open up public sector information for all users.

Access Info Europe is a human rights organization head-quartered in Madrid which promotes the right of access to information and open government data in Europe. Access Info Europe believes that more public information means better participation in and greater accountability of public bodies.

Regards Citoyens is a civic association which promotes the opening of public data to secure greater transparency of democratic institutions in France.

Information about the amendment finally adopted can be found (in French) on the website Nosdeputes.fr, http://www.nosdeputes.fr/amendement/2827/332

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