Laws applicable to video protection in France

French legislation has 7 laws applicable to video protection:

Article 2 of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 26 August 1789:

« The aim of any political association is the conservation of natural and imprescriptible human rights. These rights are freedom, property, security, and resistance to oppression. »

The protection of privacy was affirmed in 1948 by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 12).

« No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks on his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks. »

Principle also inserted in Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950)

Article 8 – Right to respect for private and family life

  1. Everyone has the right to respect for his or her private and family life, home and correspondence.
  2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety, the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
Article 9 of the Civil Code (Law of 17 July 1970)

« Everyone has the right to privacy. Without prejudice to compensation for damages suffered, judges may prescribe any measures such as sequestration, seizure and other measures to prevent or stop an invasion of privacy; such measures may be ordered in summary proceedings in urgent cases. »

The concept of privacy is not defined by law. It has been gradually clarified by case law and can be considered to include health status, sentimental life, image, religious practice, family relations and intimacy.

Law of 6 January 1978 on Data Processing, Data Files and Individual Liberties (Article 1, amended by Law n°2016-1321 of 7 October 2016 – art. 54)

Information technology must be at the service of every citizen. Its development must take place within the framework of international cooperation. It must not undermine human identity, human rights, privacy, individual or public freedoms.

Any person has the right to decide and control the uses that are made of personal data concerning him/her, under the conditions laid down in this law.

Article 226-1 of the Penal Code, amended by Order n°2000-916 of 19 September 2000 – art. 3 (V) JORF 22 September 2000 in force 1 January 2002

It shall be punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros for wilfully violating the privacy of another person by any means whatsoever:

  1. By capturing, recording or transmitting, without the consent of the author, words spoken in a private or confidential capacity;
  2. By fixing, recording or transmitting, without the person’s consent, the image of a person in a private place.

Where the acts referred to in this Article have been carried out in full view of and with the knowledge of the persons concerned without their having opposed them, when they were in a position to do so, their consent shall be presumed.

Circular PRMX1124533C dated September 14, 2011

The Prime Minister’s circular recalls the applicable authorization systems, on the one hand for video protection systems installed on the public highway or in places open to the public, and on the other hand for those in places not open to the public.

With regard to viewing on the public highway and in places open to the public, it is specified that the installation of video protection systems must be subject to obtaining a prefectoral authorization, after the opinion of the departmental video protection commission, chaired by a judicial magistrate. Systems that allow images to be used to identify individuals, via specific functionalities such as facial recognition, must also be submitted to the National Commission for Information Technology and Civil Liberties (CNIL).

For the viewing of places that are not open to the public, the systems constitute automated processing of personal data subject to the provisions of the law on “data processing and liberties” because the images are recorded and stored, and not simply viewed, and moreover the data controller or the agents, having access to the recordings, can identify the persons filmed. In the presence of these two conditions, a declaration must be made to the CNIL.

For so-called mixed systems, i.e. processing both images taken in places not accessible to the public and images taken in places open to the public or on the public highway, the prefect will have to issue a prior authorisation for the installation of the system and the applicable prior formality with the CNIL will also have to be carried out.

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