On January 14, the CNIL announced that it had sanctioned the Ministry of the Interior for illegally using camera-equipped drones. These devices would have been used to monitor compliance with containment measures.
After Google and Facebook imposed record fines at the end of 2020, the National Commission on Data Processing and Freedoms has now set the French state.
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In March 2020, while France is completely contained, several press articles reveal the use of drones equipped with cameras by the police and gendarmerie. As the use of these devices may involve the processing of personal data, the CNIL will therefore send a letter to the Ministry of the Interior in April 2020 for information on these drones. A month later, the CNIL carried out controls on the use of drones. Several questionnaires are sent to the Ministry of the Interior, as well as to the Paris Police Headquarters, a police station and a gendarmerie group.
Monitoring of events
In response to these questionnaires, the ministry said it had used drones to check compliance with containment measures, to monitor demonstrations, conduct judicial police missions and monitor urban rodeos.
A test flight was then carried out by the CNIL on the premises of the Paris police headquarters. The organization therefore determined that the people filmed by the drones were likely identified.
Violation of the data protection act
For the CNIL, this identification of people in the images taken by drones is a problem. Indeed, the organization believes that the processing of this personal data is not based on any legal basis. Marie-Laure Denis, President of the CNIL, decided to initiate sanctions proceedings against the ministry.
It was the limited formation of the CNIL, a body responsible for issuing sanctions, that published the consultation on January 12th. It believes the ministry has violated several obligations under the Data Protection Act. So far, no text authorizes the Ministry of the Interior to use drones equipped with cameras that take pictures that can be used to identify people. However, the Data Protection Act provides that the processing carried out by the state, in particular to prevent or detect criminal offenses, to carry out investigations or to protect against attacks on public security, must be provided for in a text.
A call to order was issued against the Ministry of the Interior. The CNIL cannot impose a fine on the state.
The CNIL asked the ministry to immediately stop the use of drones until a legal framework authorizes the processing of personal data or a system to prevent people from being identified is in place. Artwork.
The Interior Ministry, for its part, said it had developed a mechanism to blur people’s image, but it did not intervene until August 2020, when many drone flights had already taken place. In addition, this mechanism cannot be performed directly from the drone. Images containing personal data are therefore collected and processed by the ministry before this blurring system is applied. Which exposes a violation of the law.