The French government's war on encryption


In recent months politicians and some senior legal figures in France have spoken out against the practice of encryption to protect people's data, emails and mobile phone calls, claiming it hampers investigations into crime and above all terrorism. Mediapart can reveal that a policy to force companies to leave so-called “backdoors” in their software to enable the security forces to bypass encryption was close to being adopted by the French government. But the data privacy watchdog in France warns that such measures would put people's computer security at even greater risk at a time of an increasing number of cyber threats. Jérôme Hourdeaux reports.

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The head of the United States' National Security Agency was quite explicit on the subject: the Paris attacks of November 13th, 2015, would not have taken place had the terrorists not used encryption. Because of encrypted communications, Michael Rogers said on February 18th, “we did not generate the insights ahead of time” and so they were unable to warn their French counterparts. “Clearly, had we known, Paris would not have happened,” he added. The NSA director did not give further details but his comments had a big impact in France where a heated debate over encryption has been raging for months.