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Internet: States between "digital sovereignty" and "strategic autonomy"

For many Internet users who invested in the 1990s a network whose mythology construction was fed by libertarian or libertarian culture, the very notion of state sovereignty has long been a foil. And then the balance of power, both economic and geopolitical, has caught up with the Internet; the issue of personal data has become crucial, and computer security, a national security issue. If Moscow – which has just passed a law "On the security and resilience of the Internet" (read opposite) – and Beijing are promoters of an aggressive and widespread sovereignty, ranging from the control of infrastructure to the control of content, the question arises today everywhere on the planet.


In France, in 2009, Nicolas Sarkozy, then president, announced the launch of a project to provide the country with an alternative to the service of cloud American – which will prove to be an expensive failure. The notion of "digital sovereignty" begins to emerge two years later in the public debate, supported by the founder of Skyrock, Pierre Bellanger. At the international level too, the debate is maturing. In 2013, the UN Group of Governmental Experts on Cyberspace International Law adopted a report recognizing that "State computer policy and territorial jurisdiction over infrastructure within their territory is a matter of state sovereignty".

"Sovereignty is an attribute of the state. What is problematic is the implementation of the skills that flow from it ", says Aude Géry, PhD student in public international law at the University of Rouen and associate researcher at the Research and Training Center on the Dataosphere (Geode). But there is on the subject, she judges, a "breaking point" with Edward Snowden's revelations about NSA surveillance: "The question of sovereignty was already present in the Russian or Chinese doctrines. In France or in Europe, there was the question of technological dependence, but it was after Snowden that the expression of "numerical sovereignty" took its place. " In 2014, Brazil and the European Union decided to engage in a submarine cable project, to reduce their dependence on US "pipes". In October 2015, the Court of Justice of the EU invalidates the so-called "Safe Harbor" framework agreement on transfers of personal data from the Old Continent to the United States – it has since been replaced by a new agreement, the "Privacy". Shield ", which in turn is the subject of legal recourse.


The modalities of the debate and the measures taken differ greatly from one country to another. China and Russia are both willing to control the content (it was in the early 2000s that Beijing began to set up its "Great Electronic Wall") and the development of their digital ecosystem via "A national industry that will provide software as well as platforms, which we do not necessarily have in Europe", continues Aude Géry. In fact, in France, the idea of ​​"digital sovereignty" is giving way more and more, on the side of the authorities, to that of "digital strategic autonomy". A concept "Very linked to the notion of" decision autonomy "developed by the theorist of nuclear deterrence, General Poirier", explains Alix Desforges, researcher at the French Institute of Geopolitics and Geode Center: it is not about excluding interdependence, but about "Choose the terms".

Read alsoRussia: all to keep the ctrl of the Net

Led by the General Secretariat for Defense and National Security and published in February 2018, the Cyber ​​Defense Strategic Review put the accent on "The ability of France to act in a sovereign way in the digital space while maintaining an autonomous capacity for appreciation, decision and action, and on the other hand to preserve the most traditional components of its sovereignty vis-à-vis new threats taking advantage of the increasing digitization of society ". Where the affirmation of "digital sovereignty" could turn France's European partners to the fore, and come up against the reality of technological dependence, "strategic autonomy" appears both more consensual and more realistic. And begins, says Alix Desforges, to "Infuse in Europe".

Amaelle Guiton



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