The controversy over its new version sheds light on this French body of consultation on digital issues.
Eight days after his appointment, the National Council almost all digital resigned Tuesday, December 19. A decision taken following the controversy over the appointment of activist Rokhaya Diallo and the pressure of the Secretary of State to digital to change the composition of this consultative forum.
What is the National Digital Council?
This advisory body also called CNNum was created in 2011 under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy to accompany and “enlighten” the government on issues related to digital. He is as interested in the economy or the freedoms as in the changes of society brought about by computers and the Internet.
Specifically, the National Digital Council reports and opinions on its own initiative or at the request of the government. He has no power of regulation; his opinions are purely advisory.
What files has it already worked on?
The National Council of Digital has regularly questioned the public authorities. In particular, he delivered an opinion on the draft law strengthening counterterrorism provisions in 2013. He also raised serious concerns about the draft intelligence law in 2015 criticizing the “extremely broad wording of the Which results in “mass surveillance”.
A year later, he expressed his deep disagreement with the government in several opinions about secure residence permits (TES), a database called to contain the personal data of 60 million French. Critics who also came from associations for the defense of liberties and the judiciary unions and led the government to promise concessions on this project, however, effective since the beginning of the year.
Who composes it?
The CNNum is made up of thirty members appointed by order of the Prime Minister on a proposal from the minister in charge of digital for a two-year term. “They perform these functions on a voluntary basis,” says its regulation.
Among its members are people who have made a career in the digital economy, academics and researchers, but also figures of civil society. According to the temperament of its president, these recruitment criteria are more or less vast. For example, in the composition that Marie Ekeland had undertaken, the retiring president included Perrine Hervé-Gruyer, a farmer specializing in permaculture.
What is the nature of the current crisis at CNNum?
This is the last composition of the Council that provoked the controversy and the crisis of the last eight days. In mid-October, Mounir Mahjoubi, secretary of state for digital and also former president of the National Council of digital (he resigned to join the campaign of Emmanuel Macron), reveals that he chose Marie Ekeland to take the head of CNNum. This figure of French Tech, founder of the investment fund Daphni, had been on the Board since February 2016.
On December 11, Marie Ekeland returns her copy and the list of thirty members (eight of whom have been reappointed) to sit until 2019. In a desire to open beyond the purely technological, parity and plurality, the new president proposes a large cast. The appointments were later validated by the government, as they are endorsed by a Prime Minister’s decree. Two days later, the Secretary of State for Digital, Mr. Mahjoubi, changed his mind and asked Ms. Ekeland to review her list.
The reason: the appointments of activist Rokhaya Diallo and rapper Axiom within the body are controversial, especially among elected Republicans or activists of the secular left. Feminist and anti-racist, Ms. Diallo is sometimes criticized for denouncing “state racism” in France and accused of “communitarianism” by her opponents.
Marie Ekeland refuses to go back on the composition she had proposed and which had been validated: she resigned Tuesday, December 20. “The project that I brought, of openness, independence of thought and diversity, was put to the test from the beginning. I do not see how to continue to wear it today by maintaining its essence and good chances of success, “explained Mrs. Ekeland, whose resignation was followed by that of almost all members.
What’s next for CNNum?
After months idling, the CNNum was to be relaunched on new ground and resume operations in January. This collective resignation from the outset infects the calendar and tarnishes the organization’s reputation for independence.
“It is necessary that this National Council of digital can debate calmly, the conditions of a serene debate were not met, so it will be a new council which will meet and which will work in a serene and appeased way”, commented Tuesday evening the Government spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, at the microphone of RFI. The CNNum is therefore again at a standstill. His new composition will be announced in early 2018, assured the Secretary of State.