Security technology and the Olympics in the context of France’s legal system

Speakers from the French authorities and the private sector discussed the deployment of security technology for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games and the challenges and/or limitations of France’s legal framework at Milipol Paris 2023.

“In view of the increased sophistication of different forms of criminality, technology has more and more of an essential role to play,” said Julie Mercier, Director of Security Companies, Partnerships, and Arms (DEPSA), the government organism for security partnerships, in her keynote address at the Milipol morning conference held on Thursday, 16 November, opening the first “Olympic Games and security technologies” session.

Speaking of DEPSA’s role, Ms Mercier explained that the newly created department under the French Ministry of the Interior will, among other responsibilities, be involved in shaping France’s regulatory framework within the sphere of security technology. “We have an absolutely important role to play in the support of the evolution of regulatory frameworks to be able to help the development of new solutions,” she said.

Security technologies, Paris Olympic Games
Julie Mercier, Credit: Milipol

“We see more and more solutions, in particular in terms of artificial intelligence, which can potentially threaten public freedom, and therefore the ability to have a clear dialogue with the various control bodies on the purposes behind the technology and to be able to have legislation to allow innovation while respecting public freedom is a major axis [of DEPSA’s responsibilities].”

Participants in the panel discussion that followed focused on France’s current legal framework and the contrast between what is possible with respect to security technology and what is legal, particularly in the context of the upcoming Paris games.

Lionel Le Cleï, Strategic & Operational Advisor to the CEO, VO at the French security technology firm, Thales Group, spoke about the possibilities of facial recognition at airports, a technology the company is already putting in place in Singapore, but whose use is not legal in France.

Laurent Pellegrin, Vice President, France, Public Safety & Identity Business Unit at French security company, IDEMIA, argued for the legalisation of systems such as the API-PNR, a new air travel control file, authorised by law on an experimental basis. “For the first time, there is a major system, which allows us to recover data from airlines outside the EU community space, to be processed by the police and other services,” he asserted.

Advancements that cannot yet be deployed

In Mr Pellegrin’s view, France has some of the world’s most advanced biometric systems in the world, but because of the country’s somewhat restrictive regulatory system, this security technology cannot always be deployed.

“The question is that the regulatory framework is not ready, or what we can interpret as social acceptability, it is not yet sufficiently taken into account,” he said. “Every time we put in place a technology, there is the stake of appropriation, of acceptability. And we need to constantly do the right thing. What is reassuring in France is that we really ask that question.”

“We have a framework that is both a result of flexible law and very restrictive,” said Merav Griguer, lawyer and member of the Paris and Jerusalem Bars, in praise of the French system. However, she also claimed that grey areas not covered by current law remain.

To further clarify France’s legal system with respect to security, she explained: “A large number of guarantees must be brought forward.” “So, what we clearly demand to summarise is that the technology in question is necessary, that is to say that there are no other alternatives. It must be justified that this use of an intrusive and therefore risky technology is necessary, that it is proportionate.”

Hélène Brisset, Chief Digital Officer at Île-de-France Mobilité, the organisation that ensures the safety of passengers in the Paris area transit network, was less concerned about legal and ethical restraints and rallied for the need for robust security technology within the context of 10 million travellers per day.

Ms Bisset claimed that technology in and of itself is not detrimental and in her view the issue it how it is put to use. “The relevance of technology depends directly on its context of use,” Mr Le Cleï agreed. “So when we have an event, a challenge of the size of the Olympics, it’s a great accelerator that will allow us to ask good questions.”

Discussing the protection of France’s seafront during the various Olympic events that will take place there, VEA Gilles Boidevez, Prefect “Maritime Méditerranée” maintained that certain technologies cannot be used due to legal restrictions. “When we intercept someone on the waterfront, [we need] to be able to guarantee the identification of the person as quickly as possible. Today, we can do rapid facial control of files … but we do not have the ability to quickly cross, for example, a facial control with these files.”

Arnaud Bourguignon, Air Defence and Air Operations Command, spoke about the responsibility of ensuring the integrity of national airspace during the Paris games, particularly with respect to drones. “The legal framework for the Olympic Games has been a real catalyst for the fight against drones,” he asserted. “A huge advance in the legal framework has been a law that allows us to eliminate drones.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *