Emmanuel Macron Is Using the 2024 Olympics to Make France a Surveillance State

Guillermo Federico Ibarrola was waiting for a train in the Buenos Aires metro when he was picked up by two police officers, booked and detained for six days. Ibarrola hadn’t committed a crime, nor was he a witness to one. Rather, Ibarrola was the unfortunate victim of a glitch in the city’s newfangled, artificial intelligence–based facial recognition system, installed citywide in 2019 and now covering 75 percent of the Argentinian capital.

Even some years after such biometric systems were developed, most European capitals haven’t followed Argentina’s example. But now, this could change. As large swaths of France take to the streets in protest against a proposed rise in the pension age, the National Assembly has been quietly pushing forward a bill related to the upcoming 2024 Olympics that privacy experts say will drastically increase the state’s policing and surveillance capacities.

The so-called Olympics and Paralympics law is being fast-tracked through Parliament after being proposed by Emmanuel Macron’s ruling Renaissance party (formerly En Marche!) last December. If adopted, it will pave the way for the installation of a controversial, if “experimental” according to its proponents, AI-based biometric categorization system aimed at detecting “predetermined events,” such as crowd movements, terrorist attacks, or acts of violence. In short, the bill is named after the Olympics, but it’s about much more.