The government does not have the right to send more than 2 million civil servants a video praising pension reform – while the debate was raging – using email addresses collected for administrative purposes, argues the CNIL. The ministries of Bruno Le Maire and Stanislas Guerini are called to order. No fine is imposed. Here’s why.
It is rare enough to be noted: the National Commission for Information Technology and Liberties (CNIL), the guarantor of our private life, sent two calls to order against two ministries: that of the Economy and the Civil Service. On January 26, 2023, the latter sent a message to nearly 2.3 million public officials. The email linked to a video in which Stanislas Guerini, lhe Minister of Transformation and Public Service, extolled the virtues of pension reform for more than six minutes, while the debate raged.
However, to send this message, the administration had drawn from the file of the Secure Digital Space of State Public Agents (Ensap). Enough to constitute a misuse of personal data for political communication purposes, says the CNIL in substance. This personal data – which is emails – is covered by Article 5 of the GDPR, the general data protection regulation. According to this text, this type of data cannot be used for a purpose other than that which was intended when the data was collected. The civil servants’ email had been recorded to allow agents to have access to their pay slips or other documents. It was not given to receive a plea for pension reform.
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Why only a call to order?
For the Commission, the use of these email addresses was intended to enable “ an administrative communication ” and no ” a political communication from one of the ministers leading the reform (pensions, Editor’s note) “. In the deliberations of the decision, the CNIL considers that “ certain terms used (in the video, Editor’s note) and the general content of the message aim to convince of the necessity and merits of the reform “. The minister described, in his video, this future reform – which will be voted on a few months later – the latter being constituted “ measures of justice, progress “.
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As a sanction, the Commission issued two calls to order, one to the Ministry of Transformation and Public Service – which sent the message -, the other to the Ministry of the Economy – which manages the Ensap file. The CNIL has also decided to make its decision public. If the authority does not impose financial sanctions, as one might have expected, it is because it does not have the power to do so. Article 20 III 7° of the law of January 6, 1978 specifies that from the moment it is the State which has implemented the processing of personal data – which is the case here – the CNIL cannot impose an administrative fine.
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CNIL press release of November 14, 2023