Page last updated at 14:35 GMT, Wednesday, 10 September 2008 15:35 UK

Sarkozy in civil liberties U-turn

By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris

The French president has been forced to revise plans to introduce a controversial new security database.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy
Tens of thousands signed an online petition against the database
Civil liberties groups complained it would turn France into a police state, spying on its own citizens.

The new system, known by its acronym EDVIGE, was set up to allow security officials to monitor anyone considered a possible threat to public order.

But there were also concerns the database could collate personal information, such as sexual orientation.

"Sarkozy goes back to his files!" read the jubilant headline of the left-leaning newspaper Liberation after the French president ordered his interior minister to hold immediate talks about how EDVIGE, the new French security system, might be revised.


Tens of thousands of people in France have signed an online petition against the database with members of the government - including the defence minister - expressing doubts over its possible infringement of civil liberties.

The EDVIGE database, which is a more sophisticated version of a previous system, would hold information on people active in political and civic life, including religious and political representatives and trade union activists.

It could also include personal details such as health issues and sexual orientation.

It will also keep track on anyone likely to disrupt public order, giving security officials the right to keep minors as young as 13 under surveillance.

Civil rights groups claim the database will turn France into a Big Brother State which spies on its citizens but defenders of the system insist it is a sensible response to France's changing security situation.

France's highest administrative court is currently examining more than a dozen separate complaints about the EDVIGE system and will rule on the database by the end of the year.

Sarkozy's reforms 'to go ahead'
10 Mar 08 |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific