The French are finally in open
rebellion against Napoleon's secret police, and don't want all the information
collected by these snoops to be computerized and made available to a large
number of civil servants. Not so much of a problem with the police having
access. Government officials can't understand this, as it is common knowledge
(just check any American, or European, TV crime drama) that the police can
quickly access all you phone, credit card and other electronic records when
they have too. The bureaucrats don't understand that what upsets a lot of
French citizens is all those civil servants nosing around there when they don't
have to. The French will tolerate government snooping, but only up to a point,
and apparently that point has been reached.
didn't know that Napoleon invented the modern secret police. Yes, Hitler and
Napoleon had something in common besides invading Russia and having a low
opinion of the French. The Little Corporal was also a leader in the field of
media manipulation and Information Warfare in general. But while Napoleon was
removed from office in 1815, his secret police kept their jobs and kept going.
This year, Napoleon's snooping organization (Renseignements Généraux) was
merged into larger DST (Departement du Surveillance du Territoire), which is
similar to the British MI-5 (domestic intelligence agency, sort of a CIA for
spying on ones own people).
French bureaucrats (who are actually a pretty bright and well educated bunch,
at least at the top) have to find a way to explain to the people just what is
going on here. The basic problem is that your average civil servant is not
going to touch those computerized databases. That's because these systems
increasingly have security software installed the keeps a log of who accesses
any of this data, which data and when. These "logging systems") can
also note who should be in there, and flags those who appear to be abusing
their access. This has led to a growing number of government workers losing
their jobs, being punished, or even prosecuted, for underestimating the power
of the new log and trace software.
But most citizens
are not convinced that the security software will guarantee their privacy, and
so these new data mining systems become a big political issue. While people
want the public security these systems provide, they also want protection from abuse
of this information. For many people, the best protection is for there to be no
easy access to all government records. The French are particularly annoyed
about being reminded of how thorough the old Renseignements Généraux was in
compiling data on tens of millions of people. To most French, it's preferable
that those spying bastards have to dig through piles of files to find anything,
not just do a little typing on their laptop.