Controversy Over Algorithmic Video Surveillance in French Train Stations:

La Quadrature du Net Appeals to the CNIL

The SNCF is at the center of controversy concerning the use of algorithmic video surveillance (AVS) in its train stations, a situation that has provoked a strong reaction from La Quadrature du Net.

This digital rights organization has approached the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) hoping to put an end to these experiments in Paris and Marseille.

The SNCF's Prevent PCP Program

The SNCF launched the Prevent PCP program aimed at detecting unattended objects, such as abandoned luggage, through surveillance cameras. These tests, conducted in the Gare du Nord and Gare de Lyon in Paris, as well as Saint-Charles in Marseille, are presented as not processing any biometric data, and the images are supposed to be deleted after 14 days. However, within a broader context, the “Olympic Games” law adopted in 2023 legally permits the use of AVS by police forces and transport security services for events such as football matches or concerts. These experiments are scheduled to continue until March 2025, but some view them as merely a facade to gradually legalize an already widely deployed surveillance infrastructure.


Concerns of La Quadrature du Net

La Quadrature du Net criticizes the practices of the SNCF, arguing that even without using facial recognition, the use of characteristics such as clothing, gestures, or movement patterns could allow for the identification and tracking of individuals. Although these markers are not strictly biometric, they could still enable a form of individual surveillance, raising significant privacy concerns.

The organization has filed a complaint with the CNIL against the Prevent PCP project and other illegal deployments of AVS.

Faced with these concerns, the CNIL is called upon to determine whether the device used by the SNCF can be considered as a processing of biometric data, which would imply the capability to uniquely identify individuals based on physical or behavioral characteristics. La Quadrature du Net not only demands an immediate halt to these experiments but also the deletion of all personally identifiable data already collected.

Conclusion and Future Implications

As France prepares for the Olympic Games, the use of AVS by the SNCF and other entities could intensify, exacerbating debates between security imperatives and privacy rights. The actions of La Quadrature du Net aim to highlight the long-term implications of these technologies and to advocate for stricter regulation by the CNIL.

The outcome of this case could define new legal frameworks for the use of surveillance technologies in France.

Controverse sur la vidéosurveillance algorithmique dans les gares françaises