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The Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés or CNIL ( ) is an independent Frenchmarker administrative authority whose mission is to ensure that data privacy law is applied to the collection, storage, and use of personal data. Created by the law n° 78-17 on 6 January 1978 about computers, file and liberties (data privacy). Since 2004, the CNIL is presided by Alex Türk, a right-wing senator, former member of the Rally for the Republic (RPR).


SAFARI was an attempt by the Frenchmarker government to create a centralized database of personal data. 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. The newly named Interior Minister Jacques Chirac had to face the public uproar. Chirac had succeeded to Raymond Marcellin, nominated following May'68, who had been forced to resign in the end of February 1974 after having attempted to put wiretaps in the offices of the Canard enchaîné weekly. The massive popular rejection of this project promoted the creation of the CNIL.

At the beginning of 1980, when the CNIL really began its activities, Patrick Poivre d'Arvor, news anchorman, announced that the CNIL registered 125,000 files . At 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 parliament (Assemblée nationale and Sénat). Twelve of these members are elected by their representative organisations in the CNIL.

The CNIL's administrative authority status gives it total independence to select the actions that it will undertake. 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
Jacques Thyraud 1979 1983
Jean Rosenwald 1983 June 1984
Jacques Fauvet June 14, 1984 1999
Michel Gentot February 3, 1999 January 7, 2004
Alex Türk February 3, 2004


The CNIL registers the setup of information systems which process personal data on the French territory. More than 800,000 declarations of such systems have been done as of September 2004. Moreover, the CNIL checks the law to be applied in this domain as do about 50 control missions each year. CNIL can warn organisations or people who are found to be noncompliant with the law. CNIL can denounce them to the Parquet.

  • 300 nominative information systems are registered each day.
  • 8000 phone call per month.
  • 4000 plaintes or requests for information each year.


The main principles for regulation of personal data processing are as follows (list not all-inclusive):
  • all illegal means of data collection are forbidden;
  • the aim 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 5-year prison term and a 300 000€ fine.

European and International Contexts

Swedenmarker in 1973, Germanymarker in 1971, and France in 1978 were the first three States to vote for such a law computers and liberty law. Those laws work with independent control authority.

International, economic, and political structures have been created to apply CNIL directives. Among 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) (UNO) in 1990. In 1995, the European Commissionmarker voted a directive in this way. As of 2004, 25 countries have applied this directive.


The CNIL is the target of various criticisms, alleging its lack of seriousness and tendency to support governmental legislation, forgetting its original aims of protecting data privacy and citizens' rights . It was recently criticized, for instance, for having authorized "ethnic statistics", which were forbidden in official demographic statistics .


  1. Chloé Leprince, Cnil: trente ans contre la "tyrannie de l'ordinateur", Rue 89, 6 January 2008
  2. Chloé Leprince, Les statistiques ethniques au détour de la loi sur l'immigration, Rue 89, 17 September 2007

See also

External links

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