DS0901 - Liberté et protection des citoyens et des résidents

The use of technologies of phone and Internet interception by police and intelligence services and their private contractors: France in its European environment – UTIC

Submission summary

This project deals with international interceptions of communications. Their sweeping development reconfigures the logics of surveillance, interrogates their usual discourses of justification, redefines the limits of democracies and questions States’ sovereignty. Such diverse stakes calls for a transdisciplinary approach cutting across social science and science and technique studies. This perspective enables a comparison of the social uses of these technologies in France, Great-Britain, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Estonia, as well as their uses by agencies of the European Union, and in transatlantic networks such as 5 eyes. In order to carry out the objectives of the project, three steps have been defined.
Firstly, it is necesary to question the current controversy dealing with the nature of surveillance when it relies on untargeted interceptions of internet and phone communications (dragnet), outside of any individualized subpoena. Does the collect of data on a large scale change the nature of surveillance ? Is surveillance becoming massive, thus jeopardiziing the privacy of all internet users, and even more those who are no citizen of the intercepting Stat ? A contrario, is surveillance remaining targeted in the sense of content analysis ? In spite of the undertones of certainty emanating from the current discussion, this question is far from being settled. It is therefore important to distantiate oneself from these recent relevations and position-takings. This move will allow for an in-depth investigation into a phenomenon that is so defining that no quick decision can solve it in a near future.
Secondly, we will shed light on the justifications of this type of surveillance, where data are caught into a dragnet, without any specific subpoena, but which are carried out with the authorization of the law or of national courts’ decisions. We will specificy these modalities in each country brought under examination, as well as at European, Transatlantic and global levels. How do security services relate to one another when it comes to the uses of collected data and their aim ? Fighting terrorism or organized crime is one thing, but collecting data on the economic and social situation of an ally is quite another. Although intelligence and law-enforcement agencies exchange information under the seal of secrecy, their operational aim are different, as are their regimes of legitimation.
Thirdy, we aim at understanding how the issue of national security, and its relation to fundamental rights, is tranformed by the transnationalization of exchanges of information, by the globalization of the Internet, by the collect of data for surveillance purposes, and by the exchanges amongst security services of data corresponding to certain profiles, regardless of whether these data are personal or anonymized. It is at this level that the issue of the proportionality and the necessity between the risk and the negative consequences of surveillance comes into focus in terms of discrimination and fundamental rights. The collect and the storage of data is no longer national and public. They rely on exchanges of data at the global scale between intelligence services and private operators working in specific regional areas. They also rely on more or less asymmetrical alliances and on a transnationalization of the retention of data by private operators running the risk of being held accountable by national authorities other that their own. That is why the hybridation of public-private relations will be at the heart of our investigation.

Project coordination


The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


GRECCAP CMRP Centre Montesquieu de recherches politiques
ISP Institut des Sciences sociales du Politique

Help of the ANR 284,203 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2014 - 48 Months

Useful links

Explorez notre base de projets financés



ANR makes available its datasets on funded projects, click here to find more.

Sign up for the latest news:
Subscribe to our newsletter