Tor and Public Wi-Fi Safe in France, Prime Minister Says

French law enforcement suggested blocking Tor and public wi-fi during states of emergency.

Dec 10 2015, 6:39pm

A wi-fi zone in France. Image: Banalities/Flickr

France does not have plans to block Tor or public wi-fi, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday, despite lobbying from the French police and gendarmes to do so.

Following the terror attacks on Paris in November, an internal document leaked to Le Monde showed French law enforcement wanted "to block or forbid communications of the Tor network" and ban the use of public wi-fi during states of emergency in the country.

Public wi-fi networks and Tor encryption—which reroutes user traffic through a network of volunteer-operated servers, making it untraceable—make it more difficult to track crime, law enforcement said. It was not clear how a proposed ban on Tor would even be enforced, though some countries like China have attempted to crack down on Tor by blocking connections to known Tor entry nodes, which relay the computer traffic. More than 300 public wi-fi networks in Paris would be affected by the proposed ban.

On Wednesday, Vals said removing access to public wi-fi networks is "not a course of action envisaged by the government" and never has been. He said he "had never heard" of these police requests, but acknowledged that some measures must be taken for security in light of the attacks.

"Internet is a freedom, is an extraordinary means of communication between people, it is a benefit to the economy," he said (translated). "It is also a means for terrorists to communicate and spread their totalitarian ideology. The police must take in all of these aspects to improve their fight against terrorism, but the measures we take must be effective."