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How presidential candidates broke CNIL rules to target millions of French people


During the campaign for the 2022 presidential election, at least nine million French people received messages from Les Républicains candidate Valérie Pécresse – by e-mail, but also by SMS or through voice messages left on their answering machines. Election propaganda messages targeting in particular “women from priority polling stations outside Ile-de-France” where the “over 65”.

Eric Zemmour’s campaign team (Reconquest!) reached at least four million French people, while that of Emmanuel Macron (La République en Marche) targeted at least three million. These figures emerge from the scrutiny of the campaign accounts of the twelve presidential candidates, communicated to the World between March and May by the National Commission for Campaign Accounts and Political Funding (CNCCFP).

Of the 12 presidential candidates, half sent more than a million campaign propaganda emails. The world was able to consult part of it: many did not give the possibility of unsubscribing as the law requires. A recurring problem, as explained in World a spokesperson for the National Commission for Computing and Liberties (CNIL), the personal data policeman.

Emmanuel Macron, Eric Zemmour, Valérie Pécresse and Jean-Luc Melenchon (La France insoumise) also sent more than a million voice messages or SMS, mainly focused on the last days of the campaign. A type of message much more expensive than an e-mail: these four candidates could however hope to collect the 5% of votes synonymous with reimbursement of campaign expenses. Also more intrusive: the CNIL’s report following the 2022 presidential campaign reports that text messages and voicemails were reported in far greater numbers than emails.

Check a box “I agree to receive political messages”

With several million mailings, Emmanuel Macron, Eric Zemmour and Valérie Pécresse have approached well beyond their base of supporters. Have the targeted French people agreed to receive political messages? In any case, this is what the CNIL recommends: ensure that the people contacted have, for example, ticked a box “I agree to receive political messages” at the time their email address or phone number is collected by a data broker, a data professional, when registering for a website – a contest, a media, an energy comparator, etc. This consented collection generates a trace called “opt-in policy”.

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