The Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés or CNIL (French pronunciation: [knil]) is an independent French administrative regulatory body whose mission is to ensure that data privacy law is applied to the collection, storage, and use of personal data. Its existence was established by the French loi n° 78-17 on Information Technology, Data Files and Civil Liberty of 6 January 1978. Since September 2011, the CNIL has been chaired by Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin.
The CNIL was created partially in response to public outrage against the SAFARI program, which was an attempt by the French government to create a centralized database allowing French citizens to be personally identified by different government services. On March 21, 1974, an article in the newspaper Le Monde, "SAFARI ou la chasse aux Français (SAFARI; or, Hunting Frenchmen) brought public attention to the project. Interior Minister Jacques Chirac, freshly appointed following the events of May 1968, had to face the public uproar. Chirac was the successor to Raymond Marcellin, who had been forced to resign in the end of February 1974 after having attempted to place wiretaps in the offices of the weekly newspaper Le Canard enchaîné. The massive popular rejection of the government's activities in this domain prompted the creation of the CNIL.
At the beginning of 1980, when the CNIL began its main activities, news anchorman Patrick Poivre d'Arvor announced that the CNIL had registered 125,000 files. By the end of 1980, Poivre d'Arvor counted 250,000 files (public and private).
Composition and independence
The CNIL is composed of seventeen members from various government entities, four of whom are members of the French parliament (Assemblée nationale and Sénat). Twelve of these members are elected by their representative organisations in the CNIL.
The CNIL's status as an administrative regulatory body gives it total independence to choose its course of action. However, its power is limited and defined by law. The CNIL is financed by the budget of the French Republic.
|Presidents of the CNIL||Began||Ended|
|Pierre Bellet||December 5, 1978||November 27, 1979|
|Jean Rosenwald||1983||June 1984|
|Jacques Fauvet||June 14, 1984||1999|
|Michel Gentot||February 3, 1999||January 7, 2004|
|Alex Türk||February 3, 2004||September 21, 2011|
|Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin||September 21, 2011|
The CNIL registers the setup of information systems that process personal data on French territories. By September 2004, more than 800,000 declarations of such systems had been made. Additionally, CNIL checks the law to be applied in this domain as well as in about 50 annual 'control missions'. CNIL can warn organisations or people who are found to be noncompliant with the law, and also report them to the Parquet.
- 300 nominal information systems registered daily.
- 8000 phone calls handled each month.
- 4000 claims or requests for information received each year.
The main principles for regulation of personal data processing are as follows (non-exhaustive list):
- all illegal means of data collection are forbidden;
- the purpose of the data files must be explicitly stated;
- people registered in files must be informed of their rights, for example, for rectification and deletion of data on demand;
- finally, no decision about an individual can be decided by a computer.
The archival of sensitive information can result in a 5 year prison term and a €300,000 fine.
European and international contexts
International, economic, and political structures have been created or assigned to apply CNIL directives. Amongst these are the Organisation pour la coopération et le développement économique (OCDE/EDCO) in 1980, the Council of Europe in 1981 and the United Nations (ONU) in 1990. In 1995, the European Commission voted through a directive in this manner. As of 2004, 25 countries have applied this directive.
The CNIL is the target of various criticisms, alleging its lack of action and tendency to support governmental legislation, forgetting its original aims of protecting data privacy and citizens' rights. It is regularly criticised for its lack of administering proper sanctions to data privacy violations. It was criticized, for instance, for having authorized "ethnic statistics", forbidden in official demographic statistics.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to CNIL.|
- Chloé Leprince, Cnil: trente ans contre la "tyrannie de l'ordinateur", Rue 89, 6 January 2008 (French)
- Thiébaut Devergranne, L'invariable bienséance de la CNIL
- Chloé Leprince, Les statistiques ethniques au détour de la loi sur l'immigration, Rue 89, 17 September 2007 (French)