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

10. 3. 2010 | 00:00

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)

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