The State Council decided yesterday. Due to the “existing threat to national security”, telephone operators can therefore keep the connection data of the population for investigations into connection with organized crime and terrorism. However, the highest administrative court, which has been seized by several associations accusing the government of failing to comply with European case law, ruled out the possibility for investigators to use them for day-to-day crimes.
The French government urged the Council of State to oppose recent judgments by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) restricting the retention of connection data. He argued that “national security remains the sole responsibility of each member state”.
However, the court found that “European law does not interfere with the requirements of the French Constitution” and consequently “considers the retention of data for needs other than national security to be illegal”, thereby excluding the fight against crime.
The government will be forced to “periodically reassess the threat to the territory to justify general data retention” and “submit intelligence exploitation to the approval of an independent agency”.
Investigators, judges and intelligence agencies have been alarmed for several years by developments in European case law threatening to deprive them of the use of “fadettes” (communications recordings) used in “four judicial investigations in five” domestic violence or organized crime theft and terrorism.
In France, telephone companies are required to keep metadata of Internet and telephone connections for a year in order to be available to investigative services at the request of a judge or in intelligence matters with the Prime Minister’s approval. .
These data relate to the location, date, duration and identity of a call or message, but not to the content of the exchanges.