Do you need a "CNIL" registration number in France?

Created: Monday, 22 June 2015 Written by Saskia

The answer to this question is yes as soon as you collect any data from clients or visitors to your website. Examples are a subscription to a newsletter where you ask you visitor to leave a name and email address.

What is the CNIL anyway?
CNIL stands for “La Commission Nationale de l’informatique et des Libertés”. The CNIL’s responsibility is to ensure that information technology is at the service of the citizens and does not infringe on human identity, human rights, privacy, or individual or public freedoms. It carries out its duties in accordance with the french law.

Data protection rights

What are the data protections rights under the responsibility of the CNIL:

  • Every person may contact an organization directly to find out if he is listed or not by that organization.
  • Every person may, on simple request addressed to the organization in question, have free access to all the information concerning him in clear language (any codes must be explained) and obtain a copy against payment of a fee, fixed by the State, of 3 € for the public sector and 4,6 € for the private sector.
  • Every person may directly require from an organization holding information about him that the data be corrected (if they are wrong), completed or clarified (if they are incomplete or equivocal), or erased (if this information could not legally be collected).
  • Every person may oppose that information about him is used for advertising purposes or for commercial purposes; he may also oppose to information concerning him being disclosed to a third party for such purposes. The persons concerned should have the possibility of exercising their right to oppose the disclosure of their data to a third party at the moment the data is collected. The use of automatic calling machines or faxes for advertising purposes is prohibited unless the person has given his prior consent.
  • Every person may ask the CNIL to proceed with checks of the information concerning him; which may possibly be recorded in files concerning security of the State, defence, or public security (right of indirect access). The CNIL verifies the relevance, the accuracy and the updating of this information and can demand that it should be rectified or deleted.
  • Every person may contact the CNIL to receive assistance, in the exercise of his rights (particularly if his right of access has been denied).

What are the website owner’s responsibilities?

As the owner of the website or the manager of the database of information you are responsible for the following:

The security of the files: Anybody responsible for the treatment of the files or for the security of processing of personal data must take physical security measures (safety of premises), and logical security measures (information systems security), adapted to the nature of the data and the risks presented by the processing.

The confidentiality of data: only authorized persons can access personal data contained in a file or database. These authorized parties include explicitly defined recipients and the authorities (police, IRS).

The duration of retention: Personal information has an expiration date. The person responsible for a file decided upon a reasonable shelf life depending on the purpose of the file.

Information of the people: The person responsible for the files shall allow persons concerned by its information to fully exercise their rights. To do this, it must provide to them: its identity, the purpose of the processing, obligatory or optional responses, the recipients of the information, the existence of rights, and planned transmissions.

The authorization of the CNIL: the processing of personal data that present special risks of infringement of the rights and freedoms must, prior to their implementation, be subject to authorization by the CNIL.

The purpose of a file: A file must have a specific and precise purpose. The information used in a file must be consistent with its purpose. The information cannot be re-used in a way incompatible with the purpose for which it was collected. 

In short the data controllers' obligations are:

  • Notify the file and its characteristics to the CNIL, except when exempted by law or by the CNIL
  • Ensure that citizens are in a position to exercise their rights through information. 
  • Ensure data security and confidentiality, to protect them from distortion or disclosure to unauthorised third parties 
  • Accept on-site inspections by the CNIL, and reply to any request for information.

Violations of any of these obligations may be taken to court and punished with up to 5 years in prison and a €300.000 fine.

On the CNIL website you can check if you are obliged to do a CNIL declaration : http://www.cnil.fr/vos-obligations/declarer-a-la-cnil/ .

If yes, you can do the declaration online. We are here to help if you need us!

This article is freely translated from the CNIL site : http://www.cnil.fr and parts are copied from the English version of the CNIL site : http://www.cnil.fr/english/. Please note that I am not a legally schooled professional so I cannot be held responsible for any misinterpretations or wrong translations.

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Applicable law: Law n° 78-17 du 6 janvier 1978 relative à l'informatique, aux fichiers et aux libertés.