Invasion or Innovation? France Votes Yes to Remote Phone Activations

Estimated read time 2 min read

Hey Cyberhunters, we’ve got an intriguing development on the digital privacy front, right from the French National Assembly. Props to David Sadler of globeecho for breaking this story. But now, it’s time we do a deep dive.

Article 3 Unveiled

The National Assembly, in a recent decision, has authorized authorities to remotely activate the cameras and microphones of phones or other connected devices, unbeknownst to the users. The vote? 80 for, and 24 against.

Pegasus & Remote Access Trojans (RATs)

Before we delve further, let’s understand some relevant tech here. Tools like Pegasus, developed by NSO Group, already have the power to infiltrate phones remotely. Similarly, Remote Access Trojans (RATs) are malware that allow hackers to control a system without the owner’s knowledge. They can access sensitive data, activate hardware like microphones and cameras, and even manipulate system settings. Now, picture these tools in the hands of authorities.

Read more about RATs

Remote Activation: Its Uses

According to Article 3, this capability has two main uses: real-time geolocation for tracking suspects in specific offences, and gathering evidence by capturing sound and images for cases involving terrorism and organized crime.

The Concern: Invasion of Privacy or Saving Lives?

Naturally, this move has stirred up a storm. Privacy advocates and left-wing factions are crying foul, calling it an “invasion of privacy” and an “authoritarian drift”. Yet, for Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti, this is about saving lives and maintaining security. He insists it’s far from Orwell’s dystopian “1984”.

The Balancing Act: Limited Duration

The saving grace? There are checks in place to curb potential misuse. The remote activation is reserved only for grave cases and requires judicial approval. Moreover, the duration is capped at six months. These “safeguards” intend to strike a balance between security and privacy.

Future Implications: The “Snitch” Phones Era?

Cyberhunters, this legislation’s implication is profound. Intelligence services already use such tools, but now, judicial authorization will be obligatory. While this offers a level of transparency, it also raises questions about privacy rights.

Reza Rafati

Reza Rafati, based in the Netherlands, is the founder of An industry professional providing insightful commentary on infosec, cybercrime, cyberwar, and threat intelligence, Reza dedicates his work to bolster digital defenses and promote cyber awareness.

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