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Reader question: Can I set up a security camera on my French property?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 1 Mar, 2023 Updated Wed 1 Mar 2023 14:03 CEST
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A doorbell device with a built-in camera made by an American home security company in the USA (Photo by CHIP SOMODEVILLA / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

If you own property in France you might be thinking of setting up security cameras - especially if you have a second home that is empty for long periods - but France's strict privacy laws also cover private CCTV. Here's what you need to know.


Security cameras are generally less common in France than in the UK and US and that is in large part because both the state and private individuals need to consider the country's privacy laws.

These laws cover everything from surveillance by police to paparazzi photos of celebrities, but they also affect people who want to set up their own private security cameras.

In brief, French law does allow you to have CCTV cameras set up, but there are several privacy related rules and regulations you will have to respect.


Where can I film?

You can only film within your own property - for example, within your home, apartment, garden, driveway or on a private access road if you have one - and in most cases you do not need to ask for legal permission from local authorities.

Keep in mind that you cannot film in the public domain - this includes the street, pavement and any communal areas in front of your house, so you need to be careful of the way your camera is pointed and what is in its field of vision.

If your neighbour is concerned that your camera films either them or their property, then they have the right to contact the police and request an investigation be carried out to verify the camera's field of vision.

Additionally, for those who live in copropriété (shared buildings, such as condominiums or apartment buildings), the copropriété must agree via a vote of the general assembly of co-owners to install a video surveillance system for the building. If installed, there must be signage or panels that inform inhabitants of the presence of CCTV cameras.

Who can be filmed?

Even though you have the right to film within your own property, you cannot film just anyone that comes into your house. If you employ anyone on your property - like a cleaner, nanny or gardener - then you must inform them of the existence of the security cameras and the purpose of the filming.

Filming workers on your property without their awareness can be considered a crime and thus result in fines of up to €45,000 and/or one year in prison.

France's data protection body, CNIL, recommends that you include mention of security cameras in any employment contracts with people working on your property. According to CNIL, you must also post a notice (for example, a sign or flyer) so that employees know when they are entering an area that is being filmed.


You also cannot film workers on your property 'in permanence' - this means you do not have the right to continuously film your staff during the full exercise of their duties. 

According to French law, employers have the right to monitor their employees, but this cannot intrude on the employee's right to privacy. This means that employers cannot film bathrooms, for instance.

When it comes to the rule about continuously filming employees, CNIL explained that this is considered "disproportionate", since the purpose of video surveillance must be to ensure the safety of property and persons and not to monitor employees. Thus, for employers, the body recommends that cameras be oriented in "the least intrusive way possible". The filming should not be targeted on the employee, but instead it should be "general".


In very select cases, if your cameras are capable of identifying people, you may need to contact CNIL to conduct a “data protection impact analysis (DPA)” before setting up surveillance cameras. This is occasionally required when filming employees, and you can learn more HERE.

What if I am using a surveillance company?

CNIL advises that you carefully read the contract to ensure that the company does not store your images for more than one month (as prescribed by GDPR rules).

French approach to privacy rights

All of these regulations step from the fact that in France each person is awarded the right to privacy, as enshrined in Article 9 of the French Civil Code. The extension of this right is the droit à l’image – or the right to your own image – which states that everybody has a basic right not to have images of themselves published against their will.

Consent is (in most cases, though some exceptions exist for politicians and elected officials) required when it comes to publishing any photos or videos of people, and the rules are more strict for minors. The definition of publishing includes posting on social media.

When it comes to state-operated CCTV, public authorities can only film the public space for specific reasons, such as “safeguarding installations necessary for national defence, regulating transport flows, recording traffic violations, preventing acts of terrorism”, and more. These cameras are not authorised to film the entrances or interiors of any nearby residential buildings.

READ MORE: CCTV, drones and online cookies: How France’s strict privacy rules work

If you are interested in operating recreational drones on your private property, you should know that France also has very stringent regulations for their use – including a ban on any kind of filming or photography of a person unless they have given permission.

READ MORE: Flying a drone in France: What you need to know



The Local 2023/03/01 14:03

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