Pricing Network
IP Address
35.175.182.106
Internet provider
Amazoncom
NOT SECURE
Your Internet provider can track your Internet activity.
Help & SupportContact
IP Address
35.175.182.106
Internet provider
Amazoncom
NOT SECURE
Your Internet provider can track your Internet activity.
Here to test WireGuard with IVPN? Start here

Privacy Laws in France

IVPN customers in France trust us every day with their increasing demand for privacy and security. Understand why privacy is such an important issue for customers in France.

Data Retention by ISPs

France is in full compliance with the EU’s 2006 Data Retention Directive. All French ISPs must track their customers’ personal web-browsing activities, including the monitoring of what websites were visited, when they were visited and to whom emails have been sent. This data must then be stored for at least one year after a person leaves their ISP’s service and must be made readily available to French law enforcement agencies[1]. France has gone ‘beyond the call of duty’ with regard to the EU’s Data Retention Directive with its own 2015 enactment of a draconian surveillance law (LOI n° 2015-912 of July 24th 2015).

The new surveillance law was a reaction by the French government to the Paris attacks of January 2015 (which occurred against the offices of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo). It’s claimed that the law was principally created to provide a single legal framework for all French intelligence services[2]. What it did create, though, were further incursions against online privacy in France and a further chilling of online usage in that country. The law allows intelligence agencies to monitor phone calls and emails without prior judicial authorisation; it requires ISPs to install “black boxes” that filter all internet traffic, so as to mine everyone’s metadata in order to identify what are referred to as “deviant behaviours” (based on unclear parameters, of course) and provides access thereof to all intelligence and law enforcement agencies. The law goes even further in allowing the state to bug cars, homes and keyboards for images, sound and data on (tellingly) every premise imaginable: terrorism, political surveillance against ‘extremism’, fighting organised crime, and even competitive intelligence that may be necessary for France’s major economic, industrial and scientific interests[3].

An April 2014 decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) declared the European Data Retention Directive to be a gross violation of privacy rights under European law and, therefore, was invalid[4]. The Court made particular reference to the fundamental principle of privacy in its decision[5]. France is surely in contravention of this ECJ decision.

France had already previously issued a legal decree called the Law on Trust in the Digital Economy that updated the legal regime with regard to e-commerce. This decree required all “web hosting companies”, which encompasses everything from social networks to music sites, to store and provide the government with usernames, passwords, phone numbers, financial transactions and IP addresses of anyone who creates online content in France[6].

Digital Copyright Laws

Copyright law is stringent in France and governed by Section I of the French Intellectual Property Code[7]. Furthermore, there is no exception under French law to copyright protection for the use of a work for educational purposes, i.e. even the reproduction of a work to be shared with students in an educational setting must be authorized by the owner of the rights of the reproduced work[8]. France implemented a controversial anti-copyright theft law in 2009, which allowed copyright-holders to obtain personal data on users suspected of engaging in illegal file-sharing. Astoundingly, if they are found guilty of file-sharing three times, users will be banned from the internet by their ISP. There have been literally millions of reports of unauthorised file-sharing filed by copyright owners since then[9].

Freedom of Speech and Censorship

France generally has protections for freedom of speech and censorship. However, freedom of speech has often been curtailed thanks to extremely tough libel and (ironically) privacy laws. Online freedom in this regard is also curtailed due to tough anti-terror laws, increased online surveillance, as noted above, and, once again, laws relating to libel. Strict hate speech laws, especially those relating to race and religion, have also had a chilling effect on freedom from censorship and freedom of expression generally.

Future Trends

France does not appear to have any cause to let up on its strident assault on online privacy. A spate of terror attacks in 2016 and 2017 provides ample justification (read: cover) for those advocating greater online scrutiny. The government, including President Emmanuel Macron, have called for weaker encryption with the excuse that modern terrorism is often conceived over social media, and therefore greater powers to conduct online surveillance are needed by law enforcement authorities.

Our Take

To say that France’s current assault on the online privacy of its citizens is Orwellian would not be an exaggeration. French online users should be very concerned.

Interested in other countries? See our Comparison of Internet Privacy Laws page.

Protect yourself today and get peace of mind

Shut out hackers, identity thieves and the global government surveillance apparatus — every time you go online.