Blocking Tor, additional terror laws in France may escalate chill effect

Paris terror attack prompted new powers for government
Paris terror attack prompted new powers for government

After the Paris shootings, France hastily passed emergency terror legislation to extend a state of emergency for three months and expands the government's law enforcement's broad surveillance powers. It now appears that surveillance is only the beginning of additional police powers sought by French authorities.

Several proposals are being drafted that could be introduced to French parliament as early as January 2016, according to French news service Le Monde. The bills could be presented as early as January 2016.

One of the bills being drafted would “enable a more reliable and shared information” capabilities “to benefit from the latest technology to combine data available”. The proposal would prohibit free and shared Wi-Fi during a state of emergency (France has been under state of emergency rule since 14 November), because authorities claim it is more difficult to track people using public hotspots.

Another proposal would block or prohibit Tor within the country. It is not clear how the French legislators plan to accomplish this goal. China is the only country to have successfully blocked Tor. Russia's communications minister Nikolai Nikiforov said in November 2014 that Russia planned to ban Tor

Vadim Ampelonskogo, the chief press officer of Russian telecommunications regulator Roskomnadzor, said in February the task would be difficult but “technically possible” to block the anonymizing software. And in September, Rostec, the cyber defence company hired by Russia, quit the contract that it had signed to crack Tor. 

Russia is the second most active country among Tor users, behind the US, according to Tor metrics (France is ranked fourth).

Other proposals would include allowing “searches of vehicles and luggage without the consent of individuals”, identity checks “without the need for law enforcement to prove special circumstances”, and the internment of individuals who have an “S” tracking document. Some 20,000 people have this document.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a speech that French authorities have searched 2,000 houses and put 312 people under house arrest. The country's emergency terror legislation was used to place 24 climate change activists under house arrest before the United Nations climate talks in Paris.