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Le Monde Co-Owner Acknowledges He Spied on Ex-President Mitterrand for French Intelligence

CC0 / / Cyber space
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French billionaire Xavier Niel asserted it was "thrilling" to get around "the system", being tasked as a teenager with keeping tabs on France’s then-President François Mitterrand among other targets.

One of France's richest men, tech entrepreneur and Le Monde co-owner Xavier Niel has admitted in a sit-down with the Parliamentary Channel that in his teenage years, he hacked the mobile telephone of late President François Mitterrand at the behest of the state security service.

He said he also spied on the computers at the Renault motor group - yet another big target - for the internal intelligence service, earlier referred to as the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DST), which sought to march with the times and hired staffers to keep them updated on the most top-notch technologies in use at the time.

Niel, the founder of the Iliad Free Group, a top French wireless service provider, recounted how the security service, run by the interior ministry, called him in after he was caught cracking the decoder boxes of Canal Plus, a French pay-per-view channel, in the mid-1980s.

Aged 17 and newly expelled from his school in suburban Paris, he had been making pocket money by selling the codes.

Depicting his Renault group experience, Niel, who admitted he enjoys his reputation as a buccaneer in the French business world, said it "was just fun.... It was thrilling to get around the system".

He didn't indicate exactly how DST exploited the data he provided through his hacking at a time when chunky mobile telephones were just appearing.

Niel noted he gave up his hacking work for the DST at 20 and proceeded to make money running erotic sites on Minitel, an early state-run French internet platform that enjoyed a decade of success in the late 1970s, long before the World Wide Web emerged.

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