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France MPs approve vast new surveillance rules in 'French Patriot Act'

France MPs approve vast new surveillance rules in 'French Patriot Act'
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By Joanna Gill with Reuters
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In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, France is moving to expand surveillance powers allowing the deployment of hidden microphones and cameras without a judicial warrant.

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French MPs have approved a new bill on Tuesday which would give intelligence services their most intrusive domestic spying abilities ever, with little judicial oversight.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls defended the law as vital to counter-terrorism efforts and shot down accusations that it was a French version of the US Patriot Act which was passed in the wake of the September 11th attacks in the States. He added that the previous law dating back to 1991 was approved before the advent of “mobile phones and internet”.

The bill is opposed by civil rights groups who fear it will lead to mass-scale surveillance.

The Liberal Democrats group in the European Parliament has released a statement condemning the decision saying “ fundamental rights should not be breached on the pretext of increasing national security”. Dutch MEP Sophie In T Veld said raised concerns that the law would not only affect French citizens “it would also affect the office of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. France is going down the wrong lane.”

The news also attracted criticism on Twitter.

France is having their post-terror attack Patriot Act moment. They should resist making America's mistake http://t.co/nLjYpUANDc

— Joe Cozza (@joecozza14) May 5, 2015

Internet companies are fighting alongside civil rights activists to stall the law which must now pass a Senate vote and a constitutional review.

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