Marseille’s battle against the surveillance state

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security camera in Marseille


For Nano, increased surveillance has personal resonance. He grew up in Albania while moving between different political regimes in the 1990s. His father, a politician, opposed the party that was in power for part of that time. “It was a very difficult time for us, because we were all being watched,” he says. His family suspected that the authorities had installed insects on the walls of his house. But even in France, freedoms are fragile. “For the last five years France has lived for much of the time in a state of emergency,” he says. “I have seen more and more restrictions on our freedom.”

Concern has spread across the country. But the deployment of surveillance has met with special resistance in Marseille, France’s second largest city. The bustling and rebellious Mediterranean city is located in some of the faults that run through modern France. Known for fashion bars, artist studios and home centers, it is also known for drugs, poverty and criminal activity. It has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in Europe, but is stranded in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, a region that leans to the far right. The city is receding. His attitude could be summed up in graffiti you might pass while driving on the A7 motorway: “Life is (again) beautiful. ”

All this makes Marseille a curious testing ground for surveillance technology. When President Emmanuel Macron visited the city in September 2021, he announced that 500 more security cameras would be delivered to the city hall. They would be located in an area of ​​the city that hosts a large number of immigrants and has become synonymous with violence and gang activity. He put a tone of law and order: “If we can’t succeed in Marseilles, we can’t succeed outside France.”

The announcement was just the latest in a series of developments in Marseille that show a greater reliance on cameras in public spaces.

Activists are struggling, highlighting the oversight and low performance of the existing surveillance system. His message seems to resonate. In 2020, the city elected a new administration, which had promised a moratorium on video surveillance devices. But have the people of Marseille succeeded or are they simply fighting a rising tide?

Technopolice, campaign network and activist promoted by the digital rights advocacy group La Quadrature du Net in collaboration with other groups, began in 2019. Félix Tréguer, associate researcher at the CNRS Internet and Society Center, was one of the promoters of the campaign . He had been watching a growing number of articles in the French media about new surveillance projects and was amazed at how uncritical they were. “[One] he simply repeated the press release of the Marseille council, “he says.

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