At the heart of national sovereignty concerns lie new cyber frontiers
Intelligence sensors are now able to collect considerable quantities of data. But without any real control over it this work will be in vain. Data governance is therefore absolutely necessary in order to optimise and normalise inter-ministerial and inter-agency interoperability.
The intelligence community will become more efficient and flexible when global procedures are identified and adopted, and when the system they use is ontologically thought of as belonging to a national framework which protects civil liberties. To import foreign systems is, primarily, to make use of operating modes that differ greatly from our own legal framework.
Invest in information sharing
Since the publication of two White Papers and two Military Planning Laws, France has the means to collect data through intelligence and anticipation. We must now agree to invest in the information sharing domain, at a time when information captured on an external theatre may have serious consequences for the interior. France must therefore mobilise its resources to implement a data exploitation environment which works to ensure its digital sovereignty serving autonomous assessments and strategic decisions.
France can no longer let other countries control its data, even its allies. As Pierre Bellanger states, “as our society goes digital, it is passing through foreign sovereignty, sweeping along with it private lives, business secrets and, soon, that which anchors our Republic’s continued presence in cyberspace. Our digital house needs Republication foundations.” (1)
The dangers of data transfer
With the digital revolution at its peak, considerations around the ethical issues linked to the development of intelligence technologies are taking on greater importance. Control instruments exist and are institutionalised. But some cast doubt on their efficiency in a context that’s giving an increasingly wider scope to services. Yet, by accepting the terms and conditions of foreign applications, users are tolerating this intrusion into their private lives by allowing the total transfer of their personal data. The information industry and its correlation processes have tools in their possession that remain restricted to our intelligence services.
This tension is driving the CNIL (2), for instance, to launch a series of public debates on the appearance of the algorithms that are coming into our lives unknown to us (search engines, automatic medical diagnoses, university student placements, etc.). The intelligence services themselves cannot avoid using algorithms to automate their tools for monitoring or searching for individuals, making artificial intelligence a new agent in its own right.
Essential sovereign tools
To face the threat and enhance security services data, in August 2017 the French government published in the Official Journal a decree which led to the formation of ACCReD (3), making it possible to cross-check several of the State’s security files in order to facilitate public searches on those individuals whom may have access to sensitive areas. Whilst the State is organising the use of cyber tools, control instruments – such as the CNCTR (4) – are performing a real tightrope walk between the reason of State, which is advocating more substantial means, and the protection of civil rights and liberties; the very essence of democracy.
The “Cyber-intelligence” that we have depicted here must remain a strategic component of the French State, which in turn must be equipped with sovereign tools in order to keep one step ahead in its way of thinking, and equally to be in a position to take decisions alone, without external involvement.
(1) BELLANGER Pierre, “Pourquoi un commissariat à la souveraineté numérique”, published in Le Point, February 2016.
(2) CNIL: Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés, the French National Data Protection Agency.
(3)ACCReD: Automatisation de la consultation centralisée de renseignements et de données, Automation of the centralised consultation of intelligence and data.
(4)CNCTR: Commission nationale de contrôle des techniques de renseignement, National Commission for the Control of Intelligence Techniques.