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France seeks to ban public Wi-Fi and Tor browser after Paris attacks

Mon 7 Dec 2015

Tor and French flag

France has proposed a new law which would see the country ban the use of the anonymous web browser Tor and free Wi-Fi services, in the wake of last month’s Paris terror attacks.

According to French reports [French], authorities are looking to tighten censorship measures in the hope of controlling unregulated internet usage – a tactic only previously attempted in Iran and China. Le Monde wrote that an internal document, distributed among the country’s leaders, had pointed to the proposed changes.

The document first noted the use of ‘shared or open’ Wi-Fi zones. Police suggest that public networks can be used by terrorists to communicate anonymously, prompting authorities to consider its prohibition during a state of emergency. The second measure addresses the blocking of the Tor network in an emergency.

Given the current sentiment in France following the gruesome attacks, the government should not see much objection to the proposals. However, it may still face difficulties in closing down Tor, with users easily able to find workarounds.

France is expected to take two both legal and technological approaches to pulling down the specialist browsing tool; banning Tor and blocking any French IP addresses trying to make a connection to Tor servers.

The measures would be introduced next year, perhaps as soon as January, according to Le Monde. Privacy groups and organisations advocating freedom of speech have already raised concerns over the proposed rulings.

The state of emergency in the wake of the attacks already allows French authorities extended powers including allowing police to search properties without warrant and banning public protest. Websites can too be shut down if it is deemed illegal. These powers have been extended for three months – and French reports are suggesting that the country may be looking to extend them indefinitely.

French Prime Minister Emmanuel Valls told parliament that the measures were “modern and effective tools to fight the terrorist threat.”


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