As the Paris 2024 Olympics approach, the politics surrounding the event are becoming clearer. In the name of security, there will be strict measures in place: cameras using artificial intelligence, restricted movement around the city, travel certificates, resident searches, and more. Unfortunately, it looks like basic individual freedoms are being trampled. Security is important, but there are ways to achieve it without aggressive restrictions like this.

The first issue is freedom of movement. Cars and pedestrians will face numerous access restrictions, particularly in the vicinity of Olympic sites. Only residents will have partial access. However, just like during the COVID-19 pandemic, residents will have to generate a QR code linked to their proof of residency and identity in order to move around and enter certain spaces. Effectively, residents will have to pass a state-approved security check just to get back home. This is unacceptable.

That’s not all. All areas near the key sites will be subject to entry security checks, meaning many people will undergo bag searches, vehicle searches, and even have to pass through security gates, as you would at an airport. This implies that if a Paris resident wants to go and take a walk to the park or a nearby shop, they will have to pass through airport-style security before they are allowed to do so. Is this necessary? These security measures are excessive and disproportionate. They undermine freedom of movement and property rights.

In places like the Place de la Concorde, pedestrians will be subject to QR codes and bag checks. If you want to go to a venue such as a restaurant in a restricted area of Paris, you will have to register your identity and undergo security checks to prove you really are just visiting a restaurant. The same is true if you need to go to the doctor.

These measures are set to be in place for a minimum of two months for pedestrians and four months for motorists. This length of time is also excessive and is reminiscent of security policies in authoritarian countries.

It will be almost impossible to launch a legal challenge against these measures because, like during the COVID-19 pandemic, judges are likely to refrain from interfering with political decisions in high-stakes contexts, such as the Olympics or COVID. The battle is therefore a moral one, not a legal one. Is it acceptable to sacrifice basic individual freedoms for months for the sake of the Olympics?

The 2024 Olympic Games in Paris could also be a Trojan horse for the rollout of facial recognition technology, otherwise known as ‘algorithmic video surveillance’. The government, alarmingly, has already announced that these systems will continue to be in place after the Olympics system has finished.1 This is very depressing because it implies that these violations of basic freedoms are not temporary. Even before that, the judiciary had accepted the police profiling individuals based on their political opinions or trade union membership, also in the name of state security. 2

The barriers preventing the widespread use of this kind of surveillance technology were already collapsing. An NGO called Disclose recently revealed the Israeli police had been using facial recognition software for years, possibly illegally.3 Mass surveillance, undermining citizens’ privacy and rights, is already here, often with security as the justification.

Sadly, fear of security threats is often weaponized to defend the implementation of intrusive surveillance. It has been used to justify a wide range of infringements on freedoms and repressions worldwide, including the prohibition of protests due to the risk of public disorder and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, imprisonment camps in some countries where political opponents are detained.

It is true that the risk of a terrorist attack or other security breach is high during a high-profile event like the Olympics. However, there is always a risk. That does not mean we should accept having to undergo security checks and scan QR codes on a permanent basis. Fundamental freedoms must not be trampled, even temporarily, to satisfy a desire for security. Security is important, but ultimately, morally, we must trade some security to maintain our freedom. With the Olympics, France demonstrates its numerous flagrant violations of basic rights and freedoms. It is a cause of grave concern.

This article was written by Maxime de Langle. Maxime is a young French political and economic commentator. He is a writing fellow with Young Voices Europe.


1 Vidéosurveillance algorithmique: le gouvernement évoque une utilisation durable après les JO 2024.
2 Le Conseil d'État autorise le fichage des opinions politiques ou appartenances syndicales.
3 La police nationale utilise illégalement un logiciel israélien de reconnaissance faciale.