“Big Sister” surveillance fears in France

It was a Frenchman, Michel Foucault, who most famously argued that the etymological link between “states” and “statistics” is no accident—that gathering and organizing information about a population is, in itself, a means of exercising power over it. Some of his countrymen have taken the message to heart: The chorus of critics that has emerged to oppose a massive new “Big Sister” database has just been joined by a prominent member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s own cabinet.

The new database, known as EDVIGE, has sparked a firestorm of opposition from French unions, non-profits, and civil liberties groups since the national privacy watchdog,CNIL, forced the government to make its existence public in July.  EDVIGE, which has been dubbed “Big Sister” because the acronym is also a woman’s first name, stands for “Exploitation documentaire et valorisation de l’information générale” or “Documentary exploitation and evaluation of general information.”

Meant to be used by French intelligence agencies and administrative police, the database would collect personal information about groups or individuals over the age of 13 deemed “likely to breach public order.” 

From ars Technica (and an execrable pun in their headline).


One Response

  1. The misuse of social science, of statistical, demographic analysis is a very interesting approach Foucault contemplates. At the same time it’s something by far too less investigated.

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