'Everyone is afraid of it': Massive ID database seen as threat to personal freedom

It’s another blow to France’s motto, Liberté, égalité, fraternité, and this time it’s liberty that’s taking the hit.

Exactly two weeks ahead of the Nov. 13 anniversary of last year’s Paris attacks, the French government quietly created a massive database that will collect and store the personal information of its 60 million citizens.

The Ministry of the Interior took a sleepy Sunday in the middle of a long weekend to proceed without parliamentary consultation or public debate to publish decree No. 2016-1460, creating TES, short for “Titres électroniques securisés” or secure electronic documents.

“It would seem they wanted to move quickly, avoid debate, make the least noise possible,” says Marc Rees, the journalist who broke the story the day after. ”If that was their strategy, it’s a failure. Everyone’s been talking about it all week.”

Paris shooting injured Bataclan raid Nov 13 2015

A woman is evacuated from the Bataclan theatre after the attack in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015. (Thibault Camus/AP)

According to the ministry, TES is an administratively and financially efficient way to fight identity fraud.

All personal data from passports and French identity cards is to be merged by October 2018 into one mega file, or “monster file” as its come to be known after Rees dubbed it #FichierMonstre on Twitter.

“It’s a monstrously big and scary file,” says Rees. “When you look at the fears expressed online, you see that everyone is afraid of it.”

Afraid of having their name, address, eye colour, height, email, phone number, civil status, fingerprints and photo all in one electronic biometric file. And afraid of what might be done with it.

The French Pirate Party tweeted “Imagine the #FichierMonstre #TES in the hands of a #Trump. Got it? See? So sign and share!” referring to a petition posted in a followup tweet.