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France fines facial recognition company €20 million for GDPR violations

Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security Of Interest to Non-US Persons France Enforcement GDPR EU

Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

On October 20, the French data protection agency, Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL), imposed a €20 million penalty against a facial recognition company for violating the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). In 2020, CNIL opened an investigation after receiving complaints from individuals about the company’s facial recognition software. CNIL stated in its announcement that it cooperated with its European counterparts to share the results of the investigations, as each authority is permitted to act on its own territory since the company has no establishment in Europe. The investigations identified several violations of the GDPR, including that the company allegedly unlawfully processed personal biometric data without a legal basis (a breach of article 6 of the GDPR), and failed to take into account an individual’s rights in an “effective and satisfactory way”—particularly with respect to requests for access to their data (a breach of articles 12, 15 and 17 of the GDPR). A formal notice was issued to the company last year requiring it to stop collecting and using data belonging to persons on French territory without a legal basis. The company was also ordered to “facilitate the exercise of individuals’ rights and to comply with requests for erasure.” CNIL contended that after the company failed to respond to the formal notice, it referred the matter to a restricted committee for sanctions.

The restricted committee imposed the maximum financial penalty (€20 million) under article 83 of the GDPR, and ordered the company “to stop collecting and processing data of individuals residing in France without a legal basis and to delete the data of these persons that it has already collected, within a period of two months.” Failure to comply within this time frame will result in a €100,000 penalty per day of delay. The restricted committee also cited the company for breaching its obligation to cooperate with CNIL.