Tech firms threaten to leave France over mass surveillance moves

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Seven companies, including web-hosting and technology firms OVH, IDS and Gandi, said 'real-time capture of data' will force them into exile.

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A number of prominent French tech companies are threatening to pull out of the country in the wake of the introduction of a bill that they argue will put the entire French population "under surveillance", reports ZDNet.

Seven companies, including web hosting and technology companies OVH, IDS, and Gandi have said in a letter to French Prime Minister Manuel Valls that they will be pushed into de facto "exile" if the French government goes ahead with the "real-time capture of data" by its intelligence agencies.

The companies argued that being required by the law to install "black boxes" on their networks will "destroy a major segment of the economy," and if passed it will force them to "move our infrastructure, investments, and employees where our customers will want to work with us."

Citing a figure of 30-40 percent of foreign users, the companies say their customers come to them "because there is no Patriot Act in France," referencing the US law that allows the bulk collection of phone records.

France's surveillance bill ("projet de loi relatif au renseignement") allows the government's law enforcement and intelligence agencies to immediately access live phone and cellular data for anyone suspected of being linked to terrorism. These phone records can be held for five years.

The surveillance bill was fast-tracked in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris earlier this year, which left 12 people dead and more injured.

Valls previously said the new law was necessary as France faces an "unprecedented terrorist threat".

"There cannot be a lawless zone in the digital space," Valls said at a March 19th press conference, adding that France's current surveillance laws date back to 1991, long before the internet and mobile phone technology became mainstream.

Read more of this report from ZDNet.

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