France, Are You Dumb?

The French government is dumber than a squirrel with broccoli in its socks when it comes to “anti-terror laws”. I am currently in Paris, and I have seen really stupid things around the world, but this kind of takes the cake.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks and logging on to their wi-fi, and I’m greeted with this login screen, where I must fill in my name and address before going online. This is to make sure that terrorists can be tracked. About this point, the French parliament must have run out of oxygen.

"We must check that you're not a terrorist, so please type your name and address."
“We must check that you’re not a terrorist, so please type your name and address.”

Uhmm… Yeah. So, in order to catch terrorists, everybody must give their name and address before using the net. I’m sure actual terrorists won’t think of something sinister like not writing their actual name and address.

"Bonjour! My name is Charles de Gaulle (Mrs.), and I live in Paris, North Korea. Also, I don't really like filling in forms in French, I have always much preferred American English."
“Bonjour! My name is Charles de Gaulle (Mrs.), and I live in Paris, North Korea. Also, I don’t really like filling in my forms in French, I have always much preferred American English.”
"Welcome, Mrs. Charles de Gaulle!"
“Welcome, Mrs. Charles de Gaulle!”

This is something of the dumbest yet I’ve seen in terms of the war on privacy in the name of so called “anti-terror” laws. This is not just an irritation, but so ineffective it needs a new word for just its sheer level of ineffectiveness. And stupor.

Just how dumb is the French legislature, anyway?

UPDATE: – I had this Twitter conversation which sheds a little light:

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. BenFromIceland

    Damn that is funny. LOL

  2. BenFromIceland

    Damn that’s funny.

  3. Adbook

    Thank you so much, Mr. Sarkozy !

    1. Yngvildr

      Sorry. The law passed in 2006 and Nicolas Sarkozy was elected in 2007.

      1. Cédric

        Sarkozy was the minister of home affairs from 2005 to 2007 and was in charge of anti-terrorists measures

      2. dfr

        N. Sarkozy was Ministre de l’Intérieur in the last years of Président Chirac, government of Villepin, supervising national police and gendarmerie so he had to do with anti-terrorist laws!
        But he was certainly not the only one responsible for that. The whole right, center and part of the left were OK with this, whatever the actual content of the law and its application.

        1. NoName

          The whole left too. Actually, positions of the left in France about internet liberties and privacy are not better than those of the right. If you speak french, you can read this article about it:

          And sorry for my bad english.

  4. Jim Hansson

    First i thought that is was funny.

    but what if they think someone is a terrorist but does not have any evedence, this could be constructed as one “what is he hiding” or at least get them for hacking… If it will stick in court is another issue but by then they have made life a hell for that person.

  5. Caleb Lanik

    That’s beautiful. Wonder how long it will be before that kind of law spreads.

  6. apdurrahman j. chelebi

    the purpose is not to catch the terrorist, but to be able to inflict secondary charges such as providing false information. Think of how Al Capone was imprisoned… For tax fraud, not for being a gangster.

  7. jcm

    …? for a second i thought this was the cracked website….
    now, as i understand it, THEY are obliged to record information, but the USER is not obliged to provide “truthful” information (do i record MINE for logging in? what if the computer is loaned? what if we’re a group?), nor does it say anywhere that the USER certifies it or something like that… nor is starbucks OBLIGED to verify it in any way… very much like checking into a motel…
    so, a sloppy case of CYA

  8. Don Kongo

    Interestingly enough, this is about the same as all blogs requiring an email address, which is and has always just been a stupid nuisance to have to fill out unless actually wanted to be contacted (never?), and especially hilarious when on pirate blogs. (For the record, I self-identify as a pirate and have for that very reason long thought that requiring email or even login if you have a pirate blog is, well, odd). Ok, the same without the nefariousness, just the stupid.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      For the record, all of that is optional here – or at least ignored.

    2. Anonymous

      No IT IS BOT DON. Did you actually READ THE FORMS?

  9. Yann Charlou

    Hi Guys,

    I found exactly same forms in hotels in USA. Have you ever seen the form we need to fill before entering US ?
    Something like “If you are a spy, terrorist or old Nazi, please check here”
    Look here :

    France and US governements are closer from each other than you think 😛

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      I’m not going to claim that the US Government is any more intelligent, but at least they do know the identity of the person logging on in hotels, as they show some form of ID on checkin. This is just ineffective irritation of people.

      As for your point on applying for entry permits to the US – yes, I’ve had hilarious amounts of fun telling people about the idiocy of the questionnaire you have to fill out. “Do you seek entry to overthrow the government?” “Are you seeking entry to engage in immoral activities?” “Are you wanted for war crimes in Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1945?” The only thing I’m missing is a “one can always hope” checkbox to that middle question.


  10. David Fuchs

    “This is to make sure that terrorists can be tracked. ”

    I just thought of a really interesting scenario, what if a thousand people walked around France randomly logging in as terrorists? Would that get the security forces up in arms, or would it go unnoticed?

    This is the stupidest thing I have seen a government do in a while.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Good point. Next time I’m logging in at a Starbucks, I’ll identify as Osama bin Laden. Let’s see what happens.


  11. vincent-b

    American tourist complaining about their experience while visiting Fr… while visiting Starbuck in France. This is going to brighten your reputation for sure.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Uhm, I’m Swedish…

    2. Mrs Nicolas Sarkozy

      Who do you think is a American tourist? Check your facts before complaining about others.

  12. JF

    Falkvinge really? You think these corrupt asshat politicians are retarded? They’re just getting the ordinary non-thinking, compliant chimpanzee used to the idea that identification will be necessary to get online. Before you know it, a rudimentary webform will be replaced by a government ID with biometrics that are a tad tougher to forge. This has nothing to do with the stupidity of politicians, but with stupidity of the public, that don’t see that this terrorism rhetoric is only a ruse that gets draconian laws passed. It has nothing to do with fighting terrorism, but with tracking people and making sure they obey all of the nonsense laws and don’t step out of line, because they know they’re being watched. This form is merely a subtle reminder.

    1. Ano Nymous

      Good point. That is so true.

      Sveriges Radio (literally Sweden’s Radio, supposedly independent, ad-free, funded by a fee that everyone who owns a device capable of receiving television must pay, since it is also for Sveriges Television, which I am sure you can figure out what it means…) has recently replaced their comment system from one that didn’t require e-mail to Disqus. Configured so one can post as guest, and they have said that they like the possibility of anonymity and that one can fake an email address.

      Well, for the first, using Disqus instead of a Swedish system means the traffic must go to the USA, being recorded by both the FRA and the NSA.

      For the second, the same as this. The next step will be an account is required, maybe verified via email, then verification with Facebook, then E-ID. They claim not, time will tell.

      It’s on every level, small and large.

    2. dumb_murican

      ding ding ding… We have a winner. and I’ll add that there is anything but a shortage of stupid, apathetic people the word over. I always thought my country was the worst but some recent extended travleling has made me think again. Pretty much every country that has a sizeable middle-ish class is full of apathetic sheep. It’s only about the present level of comfort, cruise control.

      PS. To everyone who appologizes for “poor english”, you should never. In fact if you can even write that appology you’re English is fine. I’m an ameriKan and I find it really strange that you guys feel the need to say sorry. You know a second language and many of you know if better than most of my fellow sheep who will never learn a second language. It is not the Internet of the United States(we’re far from united) so no sorry’s, be proud. I’m immpressed by you all.

      1. same_dumb_murican

        See, it’s my native language and I can’t even write well, or spell, or use proper grammer. Many of you EU residents could give English lessons in the USSA or to the Brits

        On topic though, this is pathetic but I like the idea of a flash mob style “terrorist log-in day” if it was possible to organise it well with many >500 individuals all using different know names and sending huge PGP encrypted emails:)

        I believe Obuma was a Carl Rove/Dickless Cheney plant from the beginning.

  13. ikonoklast

    What are you doing in France? Are you giving a talk here Rick?

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      I had a long stopover in Paris on my way to Australia. Back at CDG now.

  14. antiwar

    This is to make the entire wifi accessing public into criminals. This way anyone of their choice can be persecuted for forgery and hacking.

    Keeps the peons, plebes and peasants in line..

  15. De Gaulle

    Hé-hé, but sorrry nothing to deal with the french gov, only a Starbuck’s good idea…

  16. Marre-de-café

    You are in Paris and you go to Starbucks? Duh !
    Plus this has nothing to do with France since it is written in English and in France all contracts and legislation are to be in French to be valid. Not to defend French gov but this article is terrible. A proper article would have asked Starbucks about this as well as French authorities.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      You are in Paris and you go to Starbucks? Duh !

      Haha, I deserved that one, didn’t I? 😀 I’m not really that stupid though, I walked through quite a bit of the 1eme Arrondissement to enjoy the city, and had a Parisian three-course lunch on a restaurant boat on the Seine. Don’t think for a moment that I didn’t want to see, feel, breathe, and eat French culture when in Paris. 🙂

      (As for Starbucks, it was mostly because I needed to send a few things before heading back to airport, and I knew they had wifi.)

    2. gurra

      Yes, and you can also clearly see the starbucks logo on the page..

  17. ChaosAD

    No they’re not dumb, actually. Do you think they never thought about people doing that? Ever heard of two nifty little things called an ‘IP Address’ and a ‘CCTV camera’?
    See, what happens is if they decide that you’re a person of interest they simply get the IP address you logged in with, find out where it came from, go there and find out when that information was put in and simply watch the CCTV.

    I think you’re the dumb one.

    1. gurra

      If you are a person of interest you probably learn to use encryption and VPNs anyway. Sure you can find out which people are careful about their communications. But what then?

    2. Alex Bliddy Rider

      Duh. Sniff traffic, grab the MAC address of somebody who looks like they’ll be leaving, wait for them to go, connect. Use MACChanger, and the router will think that you are the poor sap who just left.

  18. wiki1000

    I am french and never go to starbucks neither to drink coffee (thats not coffee)
    nor to taste the paper of the thing which is around the coffee (which is not, anyway)
    nor to go to the internet through starbucks proxies. The total dumbness is starbucks
    my friend, go away from it as much as you can, at least when you are in France.

  19. Ralf Muschall

    That’s funny – even in crazy Germany (remember Störerhaftung), Starbucks has free WiFi without login.

  20. Daydream

    Surname: On-the-internet
    Given Name: I-am-going
    Email Address: [email protected]

    (Phone Number: 99999999
    Address: #6 Nuh-uh St
    Zipcode: 1337
    City: Anony City.
    Country: Easter Island)

    Any questions?

  21. galex-713

    If you would live in France… you would know that government is not just dumb… Stupid laws are common, especially with the Internet.

    1. Rick Falkvinge

      Yup, I had a Twitter conversation to this effect that French people are smart enough to recognize and ignore stupid laws, but US companies apparently aren’t. I wonder who that makes the least intelligent…


  22. 1rpima

    Well Rick, I think you got “owned” by Starbucks and did some sloppy research before writing your piece … You’re right in assuming there is Internet legislation in relation to terrorism surveillance in France, but wrong in thinking what you were subjected to at Starbuck’s was a government idea.
    The French law that applies to public Internet providers, including free wifi like at Starbuck’s, is called the “law about postal and electronic communications”. Article R.10-13 of that law require the provider to collect and keep records of all Internet trafic going through his wifi. However the records relate only to data such as IP adress of wifi user, IP adresses this user has been in contact with while using the free wifi service, and technical data such as exact date time and duration of connection. Under no circumstances is the Internet provider (in this case Starbuck’s) required to ask for you personal details like your name, phone number, or e-mail address.
    Which means, my friend, you’ve been owned by the US coffee maker … They making use of this anti-terrorist legislation to collect your data and include it in some of their customer database and mailing lists. Guess, with you giving phony name and e-mail, you won’t get flodded by crappy spam, but think how many unknowing US tourists gave their real data in the belief this was some government supervised surveillance programme.
    Next time though, do some better research before starting the blame game … Maybe you better write an official letter of complaint to Starbuck’s ! Seems these days, the US government is not the only American entity spying on US (and foreign) citizens …
    Cheers !

  23. Thom Prentice

    From Yesterday:

    Falkvinge on Info Policy: How Bitcoin can Bring Down the United States of America —

  24. Patrik

    I hope this law spread far and wide. Just imagine how much us Wifi-users can bog down the big machine?… I’d gladly fill in new bullshit on every connect just for the hell of it. Fuck, I’d even commit to contructing a chrome plugin which will auto-fill random crap on every connect, just for the hell of it. 🙂

  25. Brainmatters

    I’m having a hard time finding this amusing because I do not believe the goal of this was to get people to willingly enter their personal information without realistically making sure they entered valid information. That would indeed be amusing. No I believe this failure is EXACTLY what they expected to happen.

    The goal was to make reasonably sure anyone using public wifi commits a crime which opens them up to persecution. It’s a rather ingenious way to have the option to target any individual you dislike, whenever you want, simply sitting on this “crime” until you want to use it. A way to pass off still working as a democratic seemingly legally honest state while operating more like a oppressive dictatorship regime.

    Laugh at this if you want but make no mistake- the joke is on you.

  26. quent1

    This form seems to be a mixture of French law number 2006-64 and a sort of paranoia from Starkbucks. According to this law (°_2006-64_du_23_janvier_2006_relative_à_la_lutte_contre_le_terrorisme), the only obligation from the internet provider is to keep their logs for one year. Moreover, in the French Mac Donalds, the only thing to do to be connected to the free wifi is to click a button to say that you have read and accepted the agreements.

  27. quent1

    This form seems to be a mixture of French law number 2006-64 and a sort of paranoia from Starkbucks. According to this law, the only obligation from the internet provider is to keep their logs for one year. Moreover, in the French Mac Donalds, the only thing to do to be connected to the free wifi is to click a button to say that you have read and accepted the agreements.

  28. x

    Get used to French people, I remembered today about another issue when talking with them and must tell you this. If you want to learn French you will need to be good at mathematics and a lot of other memory games. The translation of “ninety” in French is “quatre-vingt-dix” (four multiplied by twenty plus ten). French bureaucracy.

  29. yop

    Pretty sure it has nothing to do with law. I came across lot of wifi hotspot and have never seen such a thing (i’m french). Maybe some Starbucks’ misinterpretation ?

  30. Idee

    Well, if we lough about that we are pretty normal thinking ppl.
    Let’s play the game in paranoic mode:
    In case you’r a bit paranoic you would guess wtf is behind it. Politicians aren’t funny folks at all – not these times. They didn’t even do breath allone there is always someone who helps them.
    Did i get pictured and will i be identified not with the form-popup but while you type?
    Out/Inside of Starbucks may be CCTV, so they know my picture.
    First time block is the appearing of the popup.
    Second barrier you will need some time to think about some funny names/keychars for the entry.
    Third barrier you are or you aren’t allowed to connect in case you do connect with terrorist name/address,
    Fourthly we all know already that meta data is much more important than content. If there is a keylogger behind the popup, they know how fast you type the single keys and can compare the used keys in the popupentry with the keys pressed in the session behind. Your paranoic will not stop thinking they know now the sites which have been of your interest.
    End of paranoic mode
    Life is just fun reading such articles. 🙂

    1. Immacrosstheroad

      Can’t catch me! I’m across the road, spoofing a MAC, man. 😛

      1. Idee

        paranoic mode on
        Last time i heard these words, it was from Manning. (no it was not, i just tell you so) The more data is crypted the longer it will be stored. If you crypt your info with words rather than with technic it is more safe cause it will be deleted in estimated 5 days. All this data retention/preservation looks to me like a huge backup. In case there is a “terroristic act” to the internet they can restore it. *eg*
        paranoic mode off
        Be carefull, across the road it is of more interest. 🙂

  31. Tchupy

    Actually, it’s because of a law written in 2006. it says that if you give a free access to the Internet (= hotspot), you’re considered like an ISP and so you have to respect the French ISP laws : log every communications, log source & destination IPs, subscriber name, etc.. All that kind of informations are easy to collect with DSL subscriber, but with a hotspot it’s a bit harder.. and useless..
    Moreover, the law is so badly written that we don’t know what we have to log : just the MAC address, the timestamp, the IP address, or the name, the address, etc.. So some companies (like Mc Donald) just log that technical informations, others ask for a name, others for a valid mail address, etc..
    Last thing, it’s not just for terrorist, but it’s also needed to comply to our anti-piracy law to let the HADOPI to “find” who download a movie from the Starbuck..
    Yes it’s stupid but our politics don’t like the Internet because for them it’s just full of : terrorist /hacker/pedophile… 🙁

  32. Patrick

    What about the forms we have to fill to go on holidays in US: “Do you plan to attack a nuclear power plant?”, “Are you a terrorist?”. That’s as dumb as the starbuck stuff. Your title and tone that suggest french legislation, french people, french whatever as a whole is/are dumb, just based out of this shitty example, is totally ridiculous.

  33. Mrs. Charles De Gaulle

    If you buy a prepaid SIM card for your cell phone here in Germany, you also have to fill in a form with your personal details. However, you just need to fill in your name and your address. Some operators will check your address against a database so people who have just moved to a new house with an address that has just been assigned a few months ago have to type in a wrong adress or they can’t enable their sim.

    However, if you want to subscribe to a phone service that includes a geographic phone number, you need to order a number from the area code where you live. Your phone operator will send you a snail-mail letter with a verification code that you have to type in online to prove that you really own an address in that area code.

    Note that there are 5200 area codes in the country; The whole area code system resembles the historic structure of the Reichspost’s telephone system which does in part date back to 1899. If your village was split into two parts that would be served by two different phone exchanges in 1899, then it is very likely that your village will still be split into two different area codes today. Administrative boundaries or the actual present-time structure of the network don’t matter. You can only get a number from the area code where you live.

    And if you live in Mannheim or Ludwigshafen, there’s an extra restriction: Even though these two cities share the same area code, they are two distinct “local networks”. So you can’t keep your number if you move between the two places, even though you move within the same area code.

  34. Anon Pirate

    Actually I’ve seen this at Starbucks in Vienna as well, only they required less data (name, email, phone number) and didn’t check it, so I could just type in something… realistic, but not true.

    In my home country Orange hotspots ask you for your phone number and send you an access code by SMS, for instance – kinda hard to get around that one without the nuisance of getting a burner phone with a prepaid SIM

    1. Foonly

      How cool would it be to have some kind of Mailinator for SMS?

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  37. Another bad article

    Lol, why aren’t you talking about the US immigration and Visa form?
    Few examples :
    Have you ever unlawfully distributed or sold a controlled substance(drug), or been a prostitute or procurer for prostitutes?

    Have you ever been refused admission to the U.S., or been the subject of a deportation hearing or sought to obtain or assist others to obtain a visa, entry into the U.S., or any other U.S. immigration benefit by fraud or willful misrepresentation or other unlawful means? Have you attended a U.S. public elementary school on student (F) status or a public secondary school after November 30, 1996 without reimbursing the school?

    Do you seek to enter the United States to engage in export control violations, subversive or terrorist activities, or any other unlawful purpose? Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization as currently designated by the U.S. Secretary of State? Have you ever participated in persecutions directed by the Nazi government of Germany; or have you ever participated in genocide?

    Have you ever been afflicted with a communicable disease of public health significance or a dangerous physical or mental disorder, or ever been a drug abuser or addict?

    Need I say more? American people who are actually making fun of France, think before thinking, one of the main americain mistake nowadays.

    If I have a bad English IDC at least I tried.

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