back to article French storm the bastille over 'Sarkozy's Big Sister' database

Imagine, if you will, an announcement by the UK Government that it is going to create a new database to track anyone over the age of 13, who has been "active in politics or the trade unions or who has a significant role in business, the media, entertainment or social or religious institutions". Let's say 20 million individuals …


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  1. Ru

    "It just couldn't happen, we hear you say. At least not in the UK."


    It can, and no doubt it will, citing the French project as a precedent and proof of concept, even if it gets shot down in flames and is hated by everyone.

  2. Gilbert Wham

    England expects...

    ...the French to do their duty, i.e. set things on fire and throw them until they make this go away.

    England also expects *every* politician of *every* stripe to peer over the channel at this database and go, 'Ooh, lovely! Can WE have one?'

  3. dave lawless

    The Daily Mail agin it?

    say it aint so !

    Besides, with RIPA they don't need a central database, they just let you keep the data at home, saves losing those pesky USB dongles.

  4. Bez

    Nul points

    "Je ne suis pas un nombre" should be "Je ne suis pas un numero." (Excuse the absent accent on the e - can't include an HTML entity in the comment...)

  5. ElFatbob

    For Hire?

    Can we hire some of their activists to take on the knobheads that are implementing the same kind of thing over here, and maybe infuse some of that fiery French 'non' into our sleeping population?

  6. Bloodwin

    And what makes you think...

    ...that the powers that be don't already have a database that does just this? After all if you have a criminal record you can bet you are already on a database and if you have adriver's licence you are on one if you have a new passport you are on one, if you vote you will be on one... etc.

    I would expect any government with half a brain to compile all this information and be profiling the country every which way. Which is probably why our goverment doen't have one... Oh Gordon when will you sod off?

  7. Anonymous Coward

    What's the French for...

    'If you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear'?

    No! Wait! Forget that - the Frogs have a slightly different legal system to us, don't they?

    Er, well, they used to. Sort of 'guilty until proven innocent'. Can't help noticing since they took over most things in the UK, we seem to be adopting their system.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Mille neuf cent quatre-vignt quatre....

    ...Here we come.

    Bordel - ce n'est pas bien ça.

    It almost seems inevitable that this is going to happen around Europe - so hard to have faith in the politicians.

    When it all kicks off, I'll be reaching for my coat - it'll be the one with directions to Canada on it

  9. Ondrej Doubek

    Learn Your history

    Everybody who is only the least bit concerned about civil rights and who does not believe that government will use their power always only to the publics best interest would do good reading up on the history of Europe between WW1 and WW2, especially the early 30th. And there especially German history, as Germany is the only nation that thoroughly dealt with it's fascist past. While it is far from the only country gotten carried away by it, nor the last one...

    Then when the shit hits the fan, which starts to look more and more likely to me, at least nobody can say they didn't see the signs.

    Using a fake, created or exaggerated crisis to make people give up their civil rights, like seen recently with the "worlds most powerful nation", or creating user databases with the sole purpose of political harassment, like here with the "worlds greatest nation", or gagging the press and any slightly public organ as currently seen with the "worlds biggest nation". It's all just history repeating.

    From there the slope to a totalitarian regime is steep and slippery, and the more 'patriotism' the leaders can generate in their people to more likely it will be a fascist one.

    Smell something?

    -- The Alien, because sometimes I feel like switching planet...

  10. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    It couldn't happen in the UK?

    I rather assume that's what the spooks are paid to do, isn't it. OK, it wouldn't be very *useful* if it had millions of names on it, so the French are right to be up in arms at the disgracefully shoddy *implementation* of the idea, but the idea is obvious enough. It's just illegal.

    Now, people need to get real. The Swedes actually tried to put this sort of internal spying on a legal footing, saying in effect that "all countries do it, but we want to be honest about it", but were rebuffed and so, I imagine, have just carried on doing it on the sly. It is often *said* that the Americans, who are barred by law from this sort of thing, just get their friends to do it for them instead. As long as these organisations are "paid by results", they will do whatever they can to achieve those aims.

    So what *can* they do. Well here we have to consider the limits on behaviour.

    In any walk of life there are people and organisations that will bend the rules as far as they possibly can. For most of us, the bending limit is set by public scrutiny and the consequent threat of imprisonment or similar. Governments typically "relax" the rules for various arms of the state, which is why public services foul up so often. (Imagine if had to publish honest accounts, or had to protect data the same way the private sector does.) Organisations like MI5 have *very* limited scrutiny. So go on. Guess what happens.

    If society doesn't like this, then society needs to figure out a way of overseeing these organisations that is independent enough to make them play fair and yet trustworthy enough that it doesn't compromise their work. That's tricky. Simply passing laws, on the other hand, is easy. Pity it doesn't work.

  11. Jean-Luc Peurière

    safeguards is the real problem

    Being French, I follow that quite closely.

    Actually, the uproar is not so much about the file existence per se, but about safeguards. One similar tightly regulated file (STIC) exist already, but it gather a lot less information (and only on people actually involved with a police inquiry) and its consultation/use is recorded and reserved to law officers. There was already problems with that one (you can be added to it just by being the victim or a witness, rate of errors is high), but there is clear procedures about who, when, how.

    Here, such safeguards dont exist at all, in fact the file existence was known only when the CNIL delivered a negative advice. CNIL teeths having been pulled out, its advices are not anymore mandatory to follow and the government tried to push the decree while everybody was on hollydays.

    Also the link to other files is explicity seeked.

  12. Simon Painter
    Thumb Down

    It wouldn't happen over here...

    The creation of a similar database might happen but the idea that the general public have some sort of say in these matters is frankly laughable. The idea that something condemned by everyone as a bad idea and petitioned against by the 'voters' would be stopped in the name of some sort of idea of 'democracy' is just silly liberal idealism.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    As soon

    as you mentioned Des Browne actually doing something, I knew the article was full of crap.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ar Fek

    This is where I get worried. I have no big problem with a national ID database with everyone on it. I am against it because there is somthing that tells me it is wrong. This though is very very bad. This is not the start of a possible big brother state, but of a return to the 1950's Russia and US where everyone was to be distrusted, and the government had the right to watch "undisirables"

  15. Anonymous Coward

    "It just couldn't happen, we hear you say. At least not in the UK."

    The only part of that that couldn't happen in the UK is people realising it was going on and opposing it.

  16. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    As a French citizen

    I must say that the fallacy by which it was "not useful" to have a public debate over this point is perhaps the most irritating point.

    My government tried to sneak this very important monstrosity through the legal process, and now that it has been called to task it acts all innocent.

    Sorry, but that just doesn't feel right. Putting a new twist on "if you have nothing to hide . . ", my countrymen are now demanding to know just what it was the Fillon had to fear.

    Personally, I am happy to see that sometimes the French are indeed capable of actually noticing when their government tries to pull a fast one.

    On the other hand, I have little doubt that said database will exist anyway - with or without approval from the population.

    Ah, democracy. It's a nice dream.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Blairs demon child & the slippery slope

    If you recall the EU Data Retention Directive, the law that requires countries keep records of emails and phone calls and logs of SMS. JUST IN CASE it is useful in some future investigation.

    The directive demanded by Tony Blair.

    By accepting the principle of preemptive surveillance against some hypothetically future crime, the EU parliament opened the flood gates.

    Any crime that a control-freak politician can hypothesize can be used to justify similar pre-emptive surveillance. This is why we saw the Swedish decide to log all internet traffic. This is why the Stasi 2.0 minister Schäuble in Germany wants to log all communications of potential trouble makers (i.e. opponents). This is why the French minister thinks he can get away with recording details of all potential future opponents and their weak points.

    Note also, that this new database would contain details of acquaintances of people politically active. The acquaintances database would be derived from the data collected by the EU data retention directive, who you talk to, would be logged under that directive and so find it's way into the Sarkozy database of political opponents.

    See what you did EU Parliament, when you gave in to Blair and permitted his preemptive surveillance? You made the slippery slope.

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Why is it..

    That it seems like every western nation is hell bent in setting up a national ID, even though most people in those nations dont want one under any circumstance!?

    *\. Looking for the Government RFID in the lining.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    I think they mean that the protest against it wouldn't happen here.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    another great database

    So, what kind of record do the French have for leaving CDs laying about or envelopes on trains? Electrifrying squirrels want to know.

  21. An nonymous Cowerd

    You forgot a database!

    Décret n° 2008-632 (and 2008-612) du 27 juin 2008 portant création d'un traitement automatisé de données à caractère personnel dénommé « EDVIGE » is giving rise to concern, whilst Décret n° 2008-631 (and 2008-609) du 27 juin 2008 establishes the << CRISTINA >> database. Which is basically EDVIGE on steroids with added espionage, and is a national defence secret. Well, obviously WAS a national defence blades overhead!???

    Well at least the French were sensible enough to establish 2 databases and then give one up!

    Ou est mon anorak?, je vais prendre le Taxi

  22. Britt Johnston

    active in politics

    I suppose that includes voting?

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Semantic nitpicking

    >"It just couldn't happen, we hear you say. At least not in the UK.

    Except this is exactly what is going on right now in France."

    Well given that France is not, last time I looked, "in the UK", why is this "except"?

  24. Saucerhead Tharpe
    Black Helicopters

    Bez - CTR-ALT-E


    I disgree with the thrust of this article. I think the British public would put up with it. They'd groan and then supinely let it happen under headlines of "If you have nothing to hide ..."

  25. Luther Blissett

    Efficient ways to deal with too much freedom of speech

    "active in politics or the trade unions or who has a significant role in business, the media, entertainment or social or religious institutions"

    In other words, people who feel strongly they have something to say and/or intend to be heard by a lot of other people.

    "Civil status and occupation; physical addresses, phone numbers, email addresses; physical characteristics, photographs and behaviour; identity papers."

    Canada has had Human Rights Commissions for many years - quasi-legal kangaroo courts, where truth is no defense, accusers are let loose over the evidence, and no damage or loss is required for the wheels to grind inexhorably into motion. They exist at national, provincial and municipal level - so if the thunder don't get you, the lightning will. Their operation and effects are increasingly disquieting to Canadians. It is conceivable their powers and activities may be legally curtailed.

    Those accused are frequently subject to campaigns of vilification, threats, and suffer harm to property. Fascism in the name of human rights - make of it what you will. Doubtless some will conclude (falsely) that the end justifies the means.

    So what a convenient plan for to harness the French historical experience of mob activism, while avoiding inconvenient entanglement with jurisprudence, justice, and due process, to silence those apparently too free with their speech. Not to mention avoiding vexatious arguments about "Kantian universalism" vs self-identity (which, given the attitude of the French to their intellectuals, is something one imagines they would be only to happy to rise to).

    Of couse, the crucial data must somehow become "lost" first... but hey, that's just an IT angle.

  26. TeeCee Gold badge

    8 fingerprint ID?

    So it's true that the French can't pull their thumbs out of their arses then?

  27. Joe

    Back in the 90s...

    ...I had a Centrist modem, 1200 baud.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Would not happen here-they are doing everyone!

    Why would they bother doing just the "active" people. Here in the UK they prefer to do everyone just in case they become active! (NIR/Data retention central store/RIPA/CCTV/ANPR/DNA DB/Oyster plod access)

  29. Jean-Luc Peurière

    That is not the first attempt to such a database

    The first attempt date back from 1974 (SAFARI database), and the uproar was such that il leaded to the creation of CNIL which was empowered to check that all databases are complying to the law (public and private companies ones), and strong privacy laws were adopted.

    In 2004, the CNIL power to oppose against government policies was reduced to only giving an advice.

    Here the government wanted to not even publish the creation to Journal Officiel (Where all laws and decrees are published) and put a secret blanket on it. CNIL opposed to that, but could not oppose the database itself.

    Strangely we could oppose succesfully to such files when no privacy law existed, only what the constitution gives, and now, with strong such laws enacted, the government try to pull a fast one ? This is democraty ?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Little lists

    @ Bloodwin;

    Of course they have lots of lists. They know I drive. They (think they) know where I live. These are all things that don't draw attention to me. Why would they arrest me over these things? None of their databases has me as a TU activist, and that's something that previous regimes in other countries *have* had a problem with. They can find that out, if they put eyes on me, no problem; it's not like it's a big secret, but just to have it as default knowledge so they can send out the bully boys to round up "potential troublemakers"?



    The more I think about it, the more a good neighbourhood defence committee sounds like a good idea. I can train them in riot tactics and we can look after one another when the purges come down.

  31. Wade Burchette Silver badge

    Benjamin Franklin said it best

    "Any society that would give up a little bit of liberty to gain a little bit of security will deserve neither and lose both."

    Pretty soon, I may need government permission to pee. It is looking like all the dystopian stories are not far from the truth.

  32. Mike
    Black Helicopters

    @ US & secret databases

    We in the US are confident in the fact that the CIA, NSA, or some other as of yet unknown agency has had such a database for years and is actively using it. Sure it would be illegal, if anyone ever found out about it. Our government will disappear you, your family , all of your friends, and remove all trace of you, if they so desire. Think KGB on steroids. Mafia Hit, drive by shooting, drug overdose, horrible auto accident, it all looks good in the papers and you are gone. and I am sure its just the tip of the iceberg. The things you see are just distractions so you will look away from what they are actually doing.

  33. WTF
    Black Helicopters

    Question for the Yanks, Brits, Frogs, and Sweeds...

    Why did we fight the Nazis and then the Soviets? So the pigs could become the farmers? Seriously? It's a fucking travesty to see what has become of the 'freedom' of the West.

  34. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    @Bez et al

    It should be

    "Je ne suis pas un chiffre"

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Some times

    I wounder why they just don't tattoo and chip every one . Any one with out a tattoo and chip is an enemy of the state and shall be shot on sight

  36. Anonymous Coward

    It's not about the data, its about who owns it, stupid

    In Czarist Russia, the secret police (Okhrana) used to keep tabs on people with index cards that included circles around the names of all their friends,

    This made it much easier to round up "trouble-makers", Jews or anyone else who might disquiet the powers that be. BTW, these were the same people who wrote the Protocol of the Elders of Zion. After the Russian revolution, things became slightly better (but not much) under Lenin, later Stalin (became much worse) and then there were a series of other dictators of varying shades. Thank God they had to steal or clone most of their DP technology-

    Imagine what a regime like that one could (does) do now. Unfortunately, the real problem is not whether or not everyone is tagged within many, many databases, because unless we have lived under a rock since birth, we most certainly are. The real problem is who controls this information and what they they do with it.

    Do you trust any government to safeguard so many intimate details about your personal life, all carefully cross-referenced and indexed and meticulously updated by armies of diligent, compentent (sic) civil servants ? Hmmmm... I don't.

    Several suggestions for resolving this dilemma, while we still live in a democracy:

    1) Vote for politicians who believe in strong data protection laws, little or no cross-referencing of databases and profiling, and who prefer to fetter the goverment's ever more intrusive march into your daily life. Less wars on terrorism, more wars on power-hungry bureaucrats and institutions.

    2) Vote for politicians who want clear boundaries on what kind of data should be collected and stored by governments and who want limited retention (5 years) on personally identifiable data.

    3) Vote for politicians who are ready to reduce the amount of governmental apparatus which just seems to grow and grow and slowly stifle our remaining civil liberties and personal freedoms like some sort of insane, self-replicating (and revenue-gathering) virus.

    I personally believe that citizens can now do pretty much everything they need to do online for public life, ie. create referendums, vote on public policies, elect public officials and monitor public administrations. The greater, unwashed public is probably better equipped for this than the many hacks and incompetents that all governments attract the way sh*t attracts flies.

    The trouble is, a truly free world like that would scare the crap out of these people. Which is why they need to be fired and made to work for a living.

    SO VOTE RON PAUL in NOVEMBER even if you never heard of him (after finding out what he and people like him have to say). Or even better, start complaining to the evil idiots you have already elected. Western governments need to be pruned down and recycled, outsourced whatever,, because there are too many of these turkeys coming up with stupid expensive, wasteful ideas that are supposed to make us safer. DO SOMETHING FOR GOD'S SAKE. In a democracy, people get the government they deserve (how's that for a cliché?)

  37. Anonymous Coward

    Just in case my first comment was moderated out of existence

    Remember that the internet is a powerful tool for free expression, which is why totalitarian governments try to stamp it out, censor or throttle it every chance they get.

    Don't let it happen to you.

  38. adnim

    New world order

    Everything will be fine for those who stand up for and support all that is law.

    It is all those with the courage to stand up for and support what is right who will suffer.

    Within five years, the comments that we make on pages such of this will be enough to have us arrested and possibly jailed. All the powers that be have to do is make dissent illegal. The changes to law curtailing individual freedoms are many, and the creation of new ones is accelerating.

    The terrorists that want to destroy the west are succeeding. By blowing up a few buildings and killing several thousand innocents across several nations they have sown the seeds of destruction. If they never kill another person again it doesn't matter, because the powers that be are now nurturing those seeds to fruition. Give it ten years and sharia law will be an attractive alternative to what we will be facing in the west.

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  43. Anonymous Coward


    BTW adnim I appreciate your comment, even if I don't agree with you. You may believe the powers that be will remove all of our civil rights. I do not. There are still too many people left who remember what it was like before.

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  45. Frank Rowland

    Oh and by the way, I signed the petition

    I suggest you do too, for your kids

  46. Anonymous Coward

    @people who seem to be missreading the article

    stupid gummint DB= "so far so plausable"

    Sheeple getting off their arses and doing something about it ="not likely"


  47. Bez

    @Uncle Slacky

    "Chiffre" is a (single) digit. "Nombre" is a generic number or a specifier of quantity. "Numéro" is a numeric index or identifier.

  48. Anonymous Coward

    Vote Ron Paul?

    I *WILL* vote for Ron Paul the Libertarian in November

    Thanks for freeing my sight.

    Now, just to check, he has paid his deposit in the Glenrothes Consituency?

    Wait, I don't live there, well if I move there fast I could get onto the register.

    Right, I'll do it!

  49. ElFatbob

    @ Frank Rowland


    are you getting paid per post? ;-)

  50. EnricoSuarve
    Black Helicopters

    To all those "It couldn't happen here" people

    Have you been asleep the past few years or what?

    What do you think the UK National ID card is all about?

    Did you really believe all the crap about it being to solve the pressing problem of opening bank accounts easily and getting served in pubs?

    If so I’ll have 2 of whatever you’re having (must be good)

    This is why I have a major problem with the ID card - only 3 steps required to turn it into what the government really wants

    1) Create another smaller database with a reference to your unique ID in the national database, and some other fields, "Party_Affiliation", "Political_Groups_MemberOf" should do it

    2) Pass laws requiring carrying the card at all times and usage of it for mundane day to day tasks

    3) Sit back and monitor the peons

    The only difference is our French cousins and their politicians seem to have more balls when it comes to telling their elected government to take a hike - Vive la France!

    We should be doing the same thing - they can storm theirs, we'll storm ours and lets all meet in the middle of the Channel tunnel for tea, biscuits and good old fashioned guillotine fun


  51. Dave Page

    NO2ID Donations Month

    If people want to fight the Database State in the UK, go to and make a donation - right now, all NO2ID donations are being matched pound-for-pound by the Joseph Roundtree Foundation, so a 10 quid donation gets 20 quid in the coffers for the UK's largest, most active civil liberties campaign.

    While you're at it look up your nearest local group and get in touch - a few hours a month is a small price to pay for a realistic chance of kicking the National Identity Farce into the long grass.

  52. adnim


    "BTW adnim I appreciate your comment, even if I don't agree with you. You may believe the powers that be will remove all of our civil rights. I do not. There are still too many people left who remember what it was like before."

    Aye, you are currently correct, but in another generation or two, when all all us who do remember are dead.....

    I will not be here to see the complete destruction of our civil liberties, my son possibly will, my grand children, if he has any likely will. My great grand children certainly will but they are unlikely to know any different.

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