Data Exploitation in the French Elections

France has more than 47 million registered voters; 77.7% of them turned up to vote during the last presidential election in 2017.

A country with a strong democratic system, the French data protection framework is considered to be protective when it comes to political targeting. In addition, the French data protection authority (Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés - CNIL) issued guidelines before the last presidential election on the collection of personal data from social media. 

CNIL considered that mass collection of personal data from social media is not permitted without the consent of the data subjects. It further distinguished between regular and casual contacts of candidates and parties. ['Regular' contacts (Contact régulier) include those that maintain regular exchanges and actively demonstrate their support towards a candidate or a party, extended among others to those that follow them on Twitter or are friends with them on Facebook. 'Casual' contacts (Contact occasionnel) refer to those that occasionally contact a candidate or a party but without having regular exchanges. Liking a comment on Facebook could justify the inclusion of someone in this category. CNIL gave detailed guidelines on data processing activities that are permitted on the basis of this division.]

Despite the close monitoring of political targeting, the political parties have been increasingly using data-driven targeting techniques and companies to manage their campaigns. As noted by Tactical Tech, in their detailed report together with Judith Duportail on this topic, "Subscribing to the services of political software is now a prerequisite of campaigning.” Recent elections and campaigns have been followed by reports of the questionable legality of the use of data-driven targeting techniques by different candidates and parties. During the primary elections in 2016, Sarkozy's campaign reportedly used an app that made it possible to identify and geolocate supporters for door-to-door campaigning. By the 2017 Presidential Election, at least three candidates apparently used the American political campaigning software company called NationBuilder for their campaigns. Some of the tools the company employs were reportedly in violation of CNIL's guidelines, while others used other data-driven techniques