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French report
by Euro Reporter
2014-01-10 12:49:16
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France to cut troop numbers in Mali

France will cut its troops in Mali to 1,600 by the middle of February from the current level of 2,500, President Francois Hollande has said. Speaking at an airbase in Creil in northern France on Wednesday, Hollande said the "situation is well under control" in Mali, where the "key objectives of the mission have been accomplished".

"The troop size will be reduced from about 2,500 at present to 1,600 and then to 1,000, which is the number necessary to fight any threat that might resurface as these terrorist groups are still present in northern Mali," the president said. He also announced that France plans to use two unarmed Reaper drones to survey the region.

France launched Operation Serval in its former colony in January 11 last year to repel the advance of al-Qaeda linked armed groups following a coup. At the height of the operation, 5,000 troops were deployed. A UN mission also deployed more than 12,000 troops.  The French intervention sought to stop armed groups and Tuareg rebels from advancing on the capital, Bamako. The armed groups that once controlled northern Mali are believe to have been killed, or dispersed elsewhere in the Sahel region, notably to southern Libya.


France hands down data privacy fine to Google

French data protection watchdog CNIL fined Google 150,000 euros ($204,000) for ignoring its three-month deadline to align its practice of tracking and storing user information with the country’s law. "The company does not sufficiently inform its users of the conditions in which their personal data are processed, nor of the purposes of this processing," CNIL said in a statement. The watchdog also ruled that Google must publish its decision on google.fr for a period of 48 hours within eight days of being notified of the ruling. Back in June CNIL ruled that Google has breached six counts of the country’s privacy laws. The biggest concern was that the company did not provide “sufficient” information to users in terms of how their information was being used and stored.

The issue at the centre of the controversy is the new way Google is using individuals’ data, by combining 60 privacy policies together and collecting data on users from all of its services such as Gmail, Google+, YouTube, without giving the users the option to opt out. In response, Google said it will take note of the decision and look into further action. "Throughout our talks with CNIL, we have explained our privacy policy and how it allows us to create simpler and more efficient services," Google’s spokesman in France told Reuters.  The fine amount is the highest ever issued by CNIL. Other European countries including Spain, UK, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands have all begun similar cases against Google as the company’s privacy policy is not in line with local laws.

Many European countries limit the amount of the potential fine, with Spain’s cap remaining as one of the highest, at up to 1 million euros.  The French case is not the first time Google has been slapped with a fine due to privacy disputes. In November, the search giant was fined $17 million to settle its case with 37 American states and the District of Columbia after it bypassed Safari browser privacy settings to place ad cookies. Germany also fined Google 145,000 euros for the systematic and illegal collection of personal data while it was creating its Street View service, calling on European lawmakers to increase fines for violating data protection. The European Commission is also in the process of developing new and tougher regulations on internet services that would force them to introduce more end-user control, such as the Right to be Forgotten (forcing the company to delete all traces of a user who has decided to quit a service) and penalize them up to 2 percent of annual global turnover if they refuse to do so. The policy, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, may be introduced as early as next year.


French senators pass ‘anti-Amazon’ law to protect small retailers

In a bid to protect France’s independent bookshops, the French Senate on Wednesday night approved a bill that would ban online book retailers from offering free delivery. France has long protected small booksellers. Since 1981, a law has banned discounts on new books of more than five percent of the cover price, which effectively stops large chains from engaging in aggressive price wars with their smaller rivals. But with huge growth in online sales, especially from Amazon, the game has changed. Traditional booksellers in France claim Amazon and other web-based retailers are subjecting them to unfair competition by offering new books with a five-percent discount as well as free shipping. The bill passed by the Senate, which was approved by France’s lower house of parliament in 2013, will forbid companies like Amazon from shipping to France for free.

Put forward by the centre-right opposition UMP party, the bill tweaks one clause in the existing 1981 legislation, forbidding retailers from offering the discount and free shipping at the same time. It has enjoyed rare near-universal support across the political spectrum, both in the National Assembly and in the Senate. With the additional amendment, the bill now goes back to the National Assembly for final approval. France has one of the highest numbers of traditional book shops in the world – with a total of 3,500, of which around 800 are single independent businesses.

This compares with the United Kingdom – which has less than 2,000 bookshops – whose numbers are being steadily eroded by web competition. In France, book sales have slumped, with a 4.5 percent drop in 2012 compared to the previous year, according to government figures. Data also showed that 17 percent of all book purchases in France were now online, and that figure was growing. In 2003, it was just 3.2 percent.


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