On October 4, 2010, the French Data Protection Authority (the “CNIL”) stated in a press release that a recently enacted environmental law (Act No. 2010-788 of July 12, 2010, known as “Grenelle II”) expands the CNIL’s authority to regulate devices used to measure the viewership of advertisements in public places like shopping malls, train stations and airports.  Grenelle II introduces a new provision under Article L. 581-9 of the French Environmental Code, which states: “Any system that automatically measures the audience of an advertising device or which analyzes the typology or behavior of individuals passing within the vicinity of such advertising device requires prior approval of the CNIL.”

This new provision specifically targets devices that are programmed to track and profile activities based on behavioral analysis, such as:

  • Cameras used to measure how many people view an advertisement, the time spent viewing it, and even the age and gender of the viewers
  • Systems that measure the volume of people passing through a given area using data transmitted by their cell phones

The CNIL reiterated that individuals must be informed of when and where these types of devices are being used, and called upon data controllers to anonymize the personal data collected by such devices.