French Constitutional Court: No to police access to private space CCTV

By EDRi · March 10, 2010

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Deutsch: [Französisches Verfassungsgericht: Nein zu Polizeizugriff auf CCTV im privaten Bereich |]

On 25 February 2010, the French Constitutional Council gave its decision on
the appeal made by a group of more than 60 senators and 60 deputies against
the law reinforcing the fight against gang violence and the protection of
people under public service missions.

The appeal was referring to three articles of the law. The council decided
that two of the articles under question, art 1 and art.13 respectively, were
constitutional and therefore ruled against the appeal in their case.
Article 1 introduces in the French Penal Code a new crime which is the
participation in a gang with the intention to commit violent acts.
Article 13 introduces in the Penal Code provisions related to repressing the
intrusion of non-authorised people and the introduction of weapons into an
educational establishment.

The Council decided that article 5 which was allowing the transmission to
the police of images obtained by video-surveillance systems in non-public
spaces of a building in case of “events and situations susceptible of
needing police intervention” was not constitutional and therefore ruled
against it.

The Council considered that the text did not provide for an appropriate
protection of residents’ privacy and that the legislator did not succeed in
creating a proper balance between the respect of private life and other
constitutional requirements such as the search of criminals and the
prevention of attacks to public order.

Also, the Constitutional Council pointed out that it falls upon the
legislator to decide on the conciliation between constitutional demands
related to the respect to privacy and demands related to the prevention of
attacks to public order.

This decision is in agreement with CNIL’s position which reminds that the
installation of video-surveillance devices in private places contravenes
with the freedom of information legislation of 1978, as a person’s image is
considered personal data and the transmission by video-camera of this image
is considered as automatic data processing. The commission believes the
legal status of video-surveillance should be revised and harmonised so that
there is a proper independent control of the systems, under its monitoring.

The French Government stated it took note of the Council’s opinion and that
article 5 would “make the object of re-writing allowing it to take into
consideration the Constitutional Council’s observations and to be
re-discussed by the Parliament during the examination in the Senate of the
draft law on orientation and programming of the performance of internal
security (LOPPSI)”.

Constitutional Council Press Release 2010-604 DC (25.02.2010)

Constitutional Council Decision no. 2010-604 DC (only in French, 25.02.2010)

Video-surveillance : insufficient private life protection guaranties made
the Constitutional Council censor the transmission of residence images (only
in French, 25.02.2010)

The Constitutional Council validates the law on gang violence, except for an
article on video-surveillance (only in French, 25.02.2010)

Validation by the Constitutional Council of the 14 articles of the law
reinforcing the fight against gang violence and the protection of persons
under public service missions (only in French, 26.02.2010)