This file was among the 2019 priorities of Marie-Laure Denis, the new president of the National Commission for Data Protection (CNIL), as she explained to World in April. “We will monitor respect for the new rights of minors, in particular (…) video surveillance in schools », explained the woman who had just been named successor to Isabelle Falque-Perrotin.
Of which act. Wednesday, December 18, the commission announced the formal notice of several schools in France which, according to it, do not respect the rules in force governing the use of surveillance cameras.
The CNIL, contacted by The world, does not want to specify the exact number of establishments concerned, nor the municipalities where they are located. But it specifies that these formal notices were pronounced after receipt in 2018 of “Twenty-five complaints regarding video surveillance in schools, colleges or high schools”. These complaints enabled the CNIL to launch investigations, in order to see whether the establishments concerned applied the rules and precautions for the use of such devices, which it recalled in an article published on December 3 on its website.
These rules provide in particular, under the Data Protection Act of 1978, that “Students, teachers and other school staff have the right to respect for their private life”, and “The use of cameras must remain limited and constitute a complementary means to other security measures.” “Only exceptional circumstances (schools victims of frequent and repeated malicious acts) justify filming students and teachers continuously”, specifies the CNIL.
“Placed under systematic surveillance”
However, during their investigations, CNIL agents noted that “The pupils were placed under systematic surveillance throughout their day, whether during their leisure time, during their lunch in the canteen or even during their class time”. They noted that “These cameras also made it possible to film almost constantly a part of the staff, in particular the supervisors in charge of the playgrounds, the staff of the canteen and the CDI as well as the teachers of computer science or sport”.
The establishments concerned are now obliged to change the operation of their video surveillance system, on pain of being punished with financial sanctions. “Schools are specifically asked to reorient, remove or move the cameras to film only the entrances and circulation spaces or to configure them so that they operate only outside the opening hours of the establishment”, specifies the CNIL.
Such situations had already occurred in 2011: after being approached by parents 'associations and teachers' unions, the CNIL had given notice to five schools in France, for similar reasons. Since then, the entry into force of the personal data protection regulation (RGPD), in May 2018, has extended the obligations of schools equipped with surveillance cameras to adequately inform students, their parents, or even teaching staff on the subject. – in particular in terms of the right of access to the recorded images.