The controversy surrounding the issue of how much personal information the government is allowed to store on its citizens is gathering pace here in France.
And at the weekend a government minister stepped into the fray when he questioned in public the plans to introduce a new electronic security database - "Edvige" - which would contain records on individuals from all walks of life - including possibly those as young as 13.
The defence minister, Hervé Morin, has joined the growing ranks of those disputing just how much of a need there was to create such a database that could centralise information on those deemed a potential "threat" to national security.
And in so doing he put himself at loggerheads with the interior minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie, whose department would be responsible for running Edvige.
"Is it really useful to assure the security of the French to centralise information on those who have simply declared a political affiliation or joined a trade union, " he asked at a conference of the centre-right party, Nouveau Centre.
"Is there really any point in storing information about people's telephone details and lifestyle - without knowing exactly what that means - their wealth and property.' he added
Reacting to the statement, Alliot-Marie answered rather caustically, " I"m delighted that Mr Morin has asked these questions."
"The question I ask myself is how come he hasn't found the time since the beginning of July (when the project was launched) to put exactly these points to me."
The announcement of the creation of an electronic database, or Edvige (exploitation documentaire et valorisation de l'information générale) as it's commonly known here, appeared at the beginning of the summer.
That's the time of course in France when the country is traditionally winding down and perhaps the easiest moment to slip in controversial proposals that might escape the attention of the general public.
Basically Edvige is a centralised database that stores information on those who might be considered to pose a threat to national security or likely to "breach public order".
The government insists that Edvige is simply an "upgrading" of an existing system created in 1991 which allows the gathering of information on those "practising a political, economic or trades union function". The data it would contain is already held around the country by different branches of the intelligence service.
Centralising it, so the government's reasoning goes, would be more effective in identifying potential security threats and be less costly as it would cut out unnecessary repetition of information gathering since the country's separate security bodies have already been amalgamated - under the auspices of Alliot-Marie's interior ministry.
Furthermore, the argument goes, centralising such information would be more efficient in a technological age in which there is easy access to much of this information out there on the Web with people only having to know where to look for it.
To opponents - and their numbers are growing - the project smacks of the Big Brother syndrome, and represents an infringement of personal liberties with the state being able to keep tabs on the lives of a range of individuals it deems a potential threat to the security of the nation. In effect too much personal information on others would be just a "click" away for anyone working for the state.
But what has probably caused the most outcry here in France is that it doesn't only include those with high profile or significant roles in politics, business, religious or social organisations (including trades unions and journalists) and an "upgrading" which will include many more groups than already exists, but also files on children as young as 13. Youngsters who perhaps have no criminal record but whose activities and social milieu leaves them "susceptible" to becoming members of gangs, according to interior ministry officials.
So what about that list of information that the government would like to see held on individuals - what exactly does it consist of?
Well there's the address, age and physical description (read ethnic origin) to start with, as well as 'phone number and email address. The list continues with personal wealth, property and tax details, health records and those rather murky terms, which nobody has come out and defined openly, "sexual preferences" and intimate relations."
And it's exactly that list of information that the government would like to see stored in one place that has created such an outcry from so many different sectors, including civil liberty and human rights groups, trades unions, gay rights organisations, journalists, lawyers, the Socialists (who want the project withdrawn), the centre-right ModDem (whose leader François Bayrou has called the idea "objectionable"), and now a frontline government minister
And Morin wasn't the only unexpected voice to air disquiet over recent days.
On national radio on Monday morning, Laurence Parisot, the head of MEDEF (the employers' union) an organisation often sympathetic to much of the centre-right government's policy, said she was equally concerned about "what we're currently learning," and called for "explanations."
An online petition urging the government to scrap Edvige has been up-and-running since July 10 and already has more than 120,000 signatures.
The Conseil d'État - the country's equivalent of the Supreme Court - is due to rule at the end of December on the legality of Edvige.
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