Surveillance cameras on public roads and in places open to the public

Verified 07 February 2022 - Directorate of Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister), Ministry of the Interior

You've noticed cameras in your city and you're wondering if it's legal? You have been filmed and you want to know how to view the images? We present you the rules to be aware regarding cameras settled on the public road (street, road...) and the locations open to the public (station, town hall, commerce...).

Public authorities

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Public road

Public authorities (for example, the mayor) can film the public road for any of the following reasons:

  • Protection of public buildings and facilities and their surroundings
  • Backing up installations useful to the national defense
  • Regulation of transport flow
  • Finding of infringements of traffic rules
  • Prevention of harm to security of persons and property in places particularly exposed to risk of assault, theft or drug trafficking
  • Prevention acts of terrorism
  • Prevention of natural or technological risks
  • Relief and defense against terrorismfire
  • Safety of public facilities in amusement parks
  • Fulfillment of the obligation to have liability insurance for to drive a motor vehicle
  • Prevention and detection of an infringement related to abandonment of garbage, waste, materials or other objects

Cameras shall not be capable of visualizing the entrance and interior of residential buildings.

Place or establishment open to the public

Public authorities may film a location or a establishment open to the public for protect the immediate vicinity of businesses in places exposed to risk of assault or theft.

Company, public institution

A company or a public institution may film the immediate approaches to its buildings and facilities in places exposed to acts of terrorism.


A shopkeeper can film the public highway to ensure protection of the immediate surroundings of its buildings and installations, in places exposed to risk of assault or theft or to acts of terrorism.

He has to inform the mayor of the commune.

Outdoor cameras must be disconnected from cameras settled inside to prevent the merchant from accessing the recorded images.

Public authorities (mayor...) or professionals (trader, transport company...) must obtain authorization from the prefect before filming the public highway and places open to the public.

They must conduct a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA).

One specific authorization is to be requested from the Cnil: titleContent in the case of a settled device for the identification of persons (camera associated with a biometric system).

One poster (or a sign), including a camera pictogram, shall indicate the existence of the video-protection system.

Poster must be present continuously in the place concerned.

It must be understandable.

The poster should include the name and phone number of the Data Protection Officer (DPO) if the establishment is large (e.g. large area).

Image retention is up to 1 month except for ongoing legal proceedings.

If you have been filmed, you can ask to view images and verify their destruction within the time limit set by the prefect.

Send your request to the person responsible for the video protection system.

In general, it is the Data Protection Officer (DPO).

His name and phone number are on the video protection sign.

Access to images is a right if you have been filmed.

However, it may be rejected for subsequent reasons : State security, defense, public security, during an ongoing judicial investigation or to protect the privacy of other persons.

Departmental Video Protection Commission

You can contact the departmental commission of videoprotection in case of difficulty related to the operation of the device of videoprotection.

The request is to be sent by mail.

The commission sits in the prefecture.

Who shall I contact
Who shall I contact

National Commission for Informatics and Freedoms (Cnil)

You can contact the Cnil: titleContent difficulty associated with the operation of a video protection device.

Submit a complaint online to the Cnil

Appeals before the judge

You can apply to the competent court even if you have already contacted the departmental commission for video protection.

It can be a administrative court or judicial, depending on the circumstances and the subject-matter of the appeal.

If necessary, you can file an application in interlocutory.

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