By Pascale Gelly
Edvige has been making headlines in France and Brussels. Edvige is not, as you might expect, the new tall, blond, Nordic girlfriend of a French VIP. It is the name of a new system that the French Ministry of Interior seeks to implement. The Edvige database is meant to address what seem to be two very different matters:
- Monitoring people over the age of 13 who may be trouble for the public order; and,
- Monitoring people who have sought, have, or have had a political, unionized or economic appointment, and people who are playing a significant institutional, economic, social or religious role.
Presented this way, one might be unhappy to be in Edvige for the first reason, but could be pleased or displeased about not being in Edvige under the second category.
Playing by the rules, the Ministry of Interior requested the advice of the CNIL for what it considers as a mere basic secret services database. The CNIL issued an opinion last June, which was only partly followed by the government. Since then, public voices have strongly opposed the creation of this database. Several associations—including those of privacy advocates, judges, and attorneys—have brought lawsuits against the project.
Originally, the intent of the Evidge database was to process several information categories, including data on sexual orientation and health. The government is finally backing out on these two items and has lately shown signs of internal split about the project.
The topic brought CNIL president Alex TÃ¼rk a television appearance; Nicolas Sarkozy, president of the French Republic announced that the project will be modified; and other representatives of the French government have made contradictory announcements about the project. Recently, Mr. Barrot, European Commissioner in charge of Freedom, Security, and Justice, asked its services to take a close look at the project.
Thanks to Edvige, privacy is now one of the main topics of conversation among the French people.
Editors note: As this newsletter went to press, the French prime minister issued a decree dropping plans for the Edvige database due to privacy concerns.