French Legislators Think Hosting 2024 Olympics Justifies Massive Domestic Surveillance Expansion

from the once-it-goes-up,-who-knows-when-it-comes-down dept

Massive sports events tend to make everyone crazy. The NFL has turned the Super Bowl into The Game That Must Not Be Named (without express written [and paid] permission) by unapproved advertisers and promoters. The Olympic Committee has abused pretty much every available IP law to ensure the Olympic brand remains known as… a massive abuser of intellectual property laws.

Countries hosting these events tend to go a bit insane themselves. At least in terms of the Super Bowl, it’s always the same country and (given the country’s size) the insanity tends to remain very localized.

The same can’t be said about the Olympics. It’s an international event, which means countries hosting the Games are also hosting players, officials, reps, coaches, and entourages coming from countries the host may not currently be on good terms with.

Yes, there have been incidents of terrorism at Olympic Games. And, yes, the next host of the Summer Games — Paris, France — has had a few recent, high-profile, non-Olympic-related terrorist attacks on its soil. But events that remain anomalous are no excuse for extended, extensive domestic surveillance. And, yet, that’s apparently what legislators want, as Laura Kayali reports for Politico.

A controversial video surveillance system cleared a legislative hurdle Wednesday to be used during the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics amid opposition from left-leaning French politicians and digital rights NGOs, who argue it infringes upon privacy standards.


The plan pitched by the French government includes experimental large-scale, real-time camera systems supported by an algorithm to spot suspicious behavior, including unsupervised luggage and alarming crowd movements like stampedes.  

There’s nothing like seeing the term “experimental” being used in conjunction with “large-scale” and “real-time.” This is the least ideal combination. It’s legislators saying they’re not sure if the system will work properly but, nonetheless, it’s going to be everywhere all the time.

Even more worrying is the fact that the only limits placed on it (so far) scale back the length of the pervasive, experimental surveillance to four months after the Olympic Games end.

The National Assembly’s law committee approved the system, but also voted to limit the temporary program’s duration until December 24, 2024, instead of June 2025. 

That’s right. The initial legislative pitch would have allowed the surveillance state to kick in before the Games began and run for nearly a year after the Games end date, which is August 11, 2024. In a remarkable show of restraint, the government has voluntarily limited its surveillance program to only 18 weeks past the Olympic finale.

The proposal is seeing a lot of opposition, which is a hopeful sign. It’s not just the “left-leaners” and digital rights activists (although both have been active in their opposition). It’s also regular people with legal expertise who have noted the proposal would violate the European Union’s Artificial Intelligence Act, which places plenty of limits on AI-enabled surveillance programs.

And there’s been some giveth and taking awayeth: legislators have voted to ensure the public is informed of where cameras are located, but they’ve also voted to give local intelligence agencies a much bigger pool of data and images to train the “experimental” AI.

Look, everyone wants a terrorism-free Olympics. But legislators shouldn’t be so willing to shove the populace into the Surveillance State Wicker Man any time something out of the ordinary might be happening. It rarely prevents bad things from happening. But 100% of the time, those being sacrificed get burned.

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Comments on “French Legislators Think Hosting 2024 Olympics Justifies Massive Domestic Surveillance Expansion”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Look, everyone wants a terrorism-free Olympics.

That’s an absurd statement, false on at least two counts:
* I don’t particularly want any kind of Olympics
* given the number of past incidents, there’s almost certainly at least one person or group wanting terrorism at the Olympics, whether or not they’re actually planning to do it themselves

LostInLoDOS (profile) says:


Being from Chicago, a multi time contender for hosting…
NOBODY wants to be the next Munich.
This stuff is going to go up in any host. Period

The question is if it stays up. The answer is probably. Tim is a privacy advocate. Personally I don’t care about surveillance.
The debate is a mater of personal opinions as to how you feel about someone else watching you.

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