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France narrows scope of information database

Latest update : 2008-09-20

The French government is still going forward with the controversial Edvige database that will gather personal information on politicians and unionists, but will "explicitly rule out data on sexual orientation or health".

PARIS - The French government will scrap a decree that would have allowed police to store private information on politicians and unionists, the prime minister's office said on Thursday after the text caused an outcry.

The Edvige electronic database will still go ahead, but the government will come up with a new decree that significantly tightens the rules so that only people considered a security threat can be included.

"The decree will explicitly rule out the collection of any data on people's sexual orientation or health," the prime minister's office said in a statement. The first decree had made it possible to store such data, drawing widespread criticism.

The statement also noted that the new decree will no longer allow police to collect data on politicians, union activists or religious figures simply because of their activities.

The criteria for being included will now be related to perceived security threats.

However, the new text will still allow police to store data on minors as young as 13 if they are considered a threat to public safety.

The original decree allowed police to collect data on people aged 13 or above who are active in politics or labour unions, who play a significant institutional, economic, social or religious role, or who are "likely to breach public order".

The government will present the new decree on Friday to a consultative body that will give an opinion on whether it respects privacy rights.

The main labour unions said in a joint statement they were not satisfied. They reiterated that it was unacceptable for the database to include minors and called for stronger guarantees that citizens' rights and freedoms would be respected.

Opponents to the Edvige database have called for a day of demonstrations on Oct. 16, which is Saint Edwige's day in the Roman Catholic calendar used in France. Edvige is an acronym that is pronounced the same way as the woman's name Edwige.

The first decree drew criticism from civil rights groups, workers' unions, gay rights organisations and even from within the government, with one minister publicly voicing concerns.

Date created : 2008-09-19

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