For those living in France who wish to evade censorship and surveillance, a VPN is an easy answer. By signing up for a service, they can protect their online activity. VPN users also gain other perks, such as access to geographically restricted content and websites.
We here at ProPrivacy.com have rounded up our top picks for VPNs for France. All boast servers either in the country or in close proximity, sturdy security measures, and reliable speeds. Read more after the jump!
Best VPN for France: Summary
Considerations for VPNs in France
Controversial Anti-privacy Bills and Laws
In December 2014, the French government quietly passed a surveillance law that permitted the collection of information and documents processed by electronic communication networks or services, the list of numbers called and callers, and duration and timing of communications.
While the bill was hugely controversial, it was bolstered by another, more intrusive surveillance bill in 2015. Human Rights Watch pointed out the most problematic areas of the bill as:
"Expansive powers for the prime minister to authorize surveillance for purposes far beyond those recognized in international human rights law; lack of meaningful judicial oversight; requirements for private service providers to monitor and analyze user data and report suspicious patterns; prolonged retention periods for some captured data; and little public transparency."
Human Rights Watch general council Dinah PoKempner added:
"Though the goal of the bill is to place France’s surveillance practices under the rule of law, it in fact uses law to clothe a naked expansion of surveillance powers. France can do much better than this, especially if it wants to distance itself from the overreaching and secretive mass surveillance practices of the US and the UK that have attracted so many legal challenges."
2015/2016 Terrorist Attacks
2015 and 2016 were dark years for France. The beginning of 2015 saw the Charlie Hebdo shootings, when two members of terrorist group Al-Qaeda forced their way into the office of the satirical weekly newspaper. On 7 January they killed five staff members and left 11 wounded.
This tragedy was followed by the 13 November 2015 Paris attacks, coordinated by ISIL. They involved suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafes, restaurants, and the Bataclan theatre. The attacks claimed 130 lives and left 368 people seriously injured. It was the deadliest attack on France since World War II. Consequently, the country is in a prolonged state of emergency.
2016, sadly, saw its share of tragedy as well. On the evening of 14 July a cargo truck deliberately drove through crowds of people celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. As a result, 86 people were killed and 434 were injured. ISIL claimed responsibility for this attack as well, hence the extension of the country’s state of emergency to 26 January 2017. France also increased airstrikes on ISIL in Syria and Iraq.
PS Biometrics Database
On 30 October 2016, an illegal database containing the biometric details of 60 million French citizens was created in secret. The enormous database was created by France’s Socialist Party in response to the current state of emergency, dubbing it necessary for national security. Called "Secure Electronic Titles" (TES), it contains the personal and biometric details of nearly everyone in France. This includes a photo of the face, fingerprints, eye color, weight, geographical addresses and IP addresses.
The database violates limits on the use of biometric data, making it illegal. It also has other grave implications, such as being used for mass surveillance, or being vulnerable to hackers and other cyber threats.
French VPN: Conclusion
The French government is using the threat of terrorist attacks to justify pre-existing mass surveillance laws, as well as the passing of new ones. Worse yet, it is creating illegal (and vulnerable) databases of its citizens’ information. While the government says that it’s vital to national security, it is sad and startling to see such a pro-libertarian country falling prey to the mentality that has so many countries stripping their citizens of their basic rights in the name of safety through surveillance.
With government surveillance at an all-time high, French residents who value their online privacy would be wise to sign up with a trustworthy VPN provider. Subscribing to any of the providers mentioned above will ensure that you can go about your online activities without having to worry about who’s watching.