Aycaguer v. France  | 2017

Safeguards on DNA storage after a farmer’s privacy rights were breached

This judgment reminds us that individual liberty is a value that should not be forgotten.

Jean-Michel Aycaguer’s lawyer, Anne-Marie Mendiboure, quoted in Inf’OGM


Farmer Jean-Michel Aycaguer was arrested when scuffles broke out at a public demonstration. He was accused of striking out at police with an umbrella.

In March 2008, a French court sentenced Jean-Michel to two months’ imprisonment, suspended, meaning that he was spared jail.

Nine months later, police asked Jean-Michel to provide a DNA sample. He refused to do so. Because of this, he later received a €500 fine.

Jean-Michel appealed against what he thought was an unfair breach of his privacy. He did not want to have his unique personal data stored on a police database for up to 40 years, as provided for by the law.

The French courts, however, rejected Jean-Michel’s appeal.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court ruled that Jean-Michel’s right to privacy had been violated because the law on the storage of DNA profiles lacked sufficient safeguards.

The court pointed out that the 40-year period set out in French law was, in practice, treated as indefinite storage or at least as a norm rather than a maximum time limit.

This period was the same regardless of the seriousness of the crime committed, effectively putting Jean-Michel in the same category as sex offenders and terrorists, despite his relatively minor offence.

There was also no way for people convicted of crimes to ask for their personal data to be deleted.

The European court ordered France to pay Jean-Michel €3,000 in damages.

Personal data protection plays a primordial role in the exercise of a person’s right to respect for his private life enshrined in Article 8 of the Convention.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, June 2017


In response to the European court’s judgment in Jean-Michel’s case, France changed the law in 2021 to make the length of data storage on the national DNA database dependent upon the convicted person’s age and the seriousness of their crime.

A 2019 law now also allows people who have been convicted to seek the early deletion of their data from the national DNA database in certain circumstances.


Related examples

Strict rules on the storage and use of communist-era Securitate files

The Romanian government breached Aurel Rotaru’s right to privacy by revealing false and damaging information about him based on an old communist-era secret police file. The European Court of Human Rights found that the law in Romania lacked safeguards against abuses with regard to the storage and use of such records, prompting the government to more strictly regulate access to them.

Read more