On June 3, 2009, the French Senate’s Commission on Laws issued a report on the right to privacy in the digital age (‘La vie privée à l’heure des mémoires numériques’) (the “Report”). The issuance of the Report is perhaps the most important legislative initiative in France in the field of privacy and data protection since the implementation of the EU Data Protection Directive in 2004.
The Report observes that new technologies developed in recent years now enable companies and organizations to track and trace individuals in various ways over space and time, retaining “digital memories” of the personal data collected. Various technologies, such as videosurveillance, RFID, geolocalization and Bluetooth, are used for different purposes (e.g., security, transportation, advertising, etc.), which may have an impact on an individual’s right to privacy. Furthermore, perceptions of risk have changed – younger generations tend to be less aware of the threats that some websites, such as blogs or social networks, may pose to their privacy.
The Report advocates developing adequate and sustainable solutions to deal with the specific challenges of our time. In particular, it recommends requiring the appointment of Data Protection Officers for companies and organizations with more than fifty employees, creating a new legal obligation for data controllers to notify the French data protection authority (“CNIL”) in the event of a data security breach, and expanding the CNIL to include a network of regional offices. The Report also advocates several points made in the CNIL’s Annual Activity Report, released May 13, including diversifying the CNIL’s financial resources, increasing its personnel and including data protection and privacy rights in the French constitution.
These reports demonstrate the French Senate’s and the CNIL’s motivation to enhance the right to privacy at both the national and international levels. Olivier Proust, an attorney in Hunton & Williams’ Brussels office and a member of the Paris Bar, was among the legal experts who testified before the French Senate regarding the impact of new technologies on privacy issues, which is among the topics discussed in the Report. The Report and a short summary are available (in French) here. More information about the CNIL’s recently-published Annual Activity Report for 2008 is available here.