French parliament begins debating controversial surveillance bill

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The proposed new legislation aims to install sweeping spying powers to tackle terrorism, but which critics say place human rights under threat.

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A divisive law boosting the French state's surveillance powers on Monday went up for debate in the lower house of Parliament, where Prime Minister Manuels Valls defended the bill and pushed for its adoption, reports Europe Online.

"The threat posed by terrorism is the most formidable threat today. It is a challenge we will face for a long time. That should be taken into consideration - not to be afraid, but to be lucid," Valls said in remarks to the National Assembly.

Planned before terrorist attacks in Paris in January that left 20 people dead, including three gunmen, the bill aims at installing sweeping spying rights that the government says are designed to help protect people from such attacks.

The bill, which has broad political support, is slated for public discussion through mid-April and could be voted on in early May. It will then go to the Parliament‘s upper house for approval.

Backers of the bill say it is the first comprehensive attempt in France to account for new methods of communication provided by the internet. Critics say it gives the country‘s intelligence services undue power.

Measures include the state's collection of metadata to identify those engaged in suspicious activity, the installation of electronic monitoring systems around people deemed suspect and the right to use surveillance on people without a judge's prior approval.

It also includes provisions requiring private companies to collaborate with the state in identifying and turning over data deemed suspicious.

Read more of this report from Europe Online.

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