Those who know me will know that I currently have French citizenship and as such am registered with the French consulate in London. The registration process involved providing certain personal details, including an email address. Since this didn’t seem unusual in any way I was quite content to provide one.
It would seem that control over who can access the electoral list held by the consulate is rather lax and as a result I had to put up with rather high levels of spam prior to the last election. Whilst this was frustrating it was at least understandable since part of the reason of the list in the first place is to facilitate communication between the candidates and those that can vote for them.
More worryingly however it would appear that access to these lists has been granted for other purposes unrelated to the electoral functions that the lists are supposed to facilitate. I started recently getting spam emails being sent to me advertising the existence of a new web based TV station aimed at French citizens living in the UK: angleterre21.tv.
It should be noted at this point that the email address I provided to the consulate is only an alias and was only ever provided to the consulate. Combine this with the specific intended audience of the email – French citizens in the UK – and it’s rather easy to come to the conclusion that the organisation behind angleterre21.tv was provided with my address by the French government.
I emailed the ICO in the UK about this as I’m also British, but they told me that since this involved the French consulate that it would have to be dealt with by the French authorities. To be fair this is what I expected but unfortunately the CNIL – the ICO’s French counterpart – make it surprisingly difficult for anybody abroad to contact them online. They don’t even provide an email address, which is in itself incomprehensible given the potential for French systems and laws to impact on their citizens living elsewhere around the world.
A telephone number or postal address is simply insufficient in such cases. Given the amount of time people tend to spend on hold would anybody want the astronomical phone bill that could result from an international phone call to the CNIL? In any case the ICO were kind enough to forward my concerns directly to the CNIL, so hopefully they’ll not only get my email but also act upon it.
While they’re doing that they could perhaps also look at some of my other concerns, one of which is why the French government is allowing personal information to be exported to a 3rd country with little or no rights to privacy for foreigners and no permission from the people concerned?
The website is hosted in the US. The owner, if his LinkedIn profile is to be believed, currently appears to live in the US and the bulk email service used is also located in the US. French authorities are happy, however, to see personal details entrusted to them sent to that country despite the continued lack of any privacy for French citizens there.