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Covid-19: What happens to data I give to Paris restaurants?

Anyone dining out in Paris or other maximum alert zones in France now have to provide their contact information, sometimes handwritten in a notebook. 

Reader question: I will be passing through Paris on my way back to the UK for one night and will probably eat out at a restaurant. I have heard that I will have to provide my phone number and email address, but what will happen to my information? Will the restaurants use them to spam me with adverts?

Short answer: In theory, contact details should be destroyed after two weeks and it is illegal for restaurants to use it to contact customers for advertising means. 

Paris and the petite couronne are now in France’s maximum alert zone. This means that all bars are closed and restaurants are subject to stricter health protocols, among other restrictions. 

Read about France’s new five-tiered alert system here. 

One of the four measures that restaurants now need to carry out is taking the contact details of its customers. 

A prefectoral decree on the matter states: “Customers’ contact details must be taken and kept with the details being made available to health authorities to facilitate contact tracing in case of suspicion of contamination at the establishment, and then destroyed after 14 days.”

Some restaurants that have online booking services are using those to take users’ data. Others are relying on notebooks. One Twitter user quipped that he was “delighted to be able to collect, at a glance, all the names and phone numbers of the customers eating around me at the Japanese restaurant at lunchtime”. 

Another Twitter user said the notebooks are an “even more flawed solution” than France’s coronavirus tracing application StopCovid. In the four months since France’s StopCovid application has been available, it has been downloaded around 2.4 million times only. 

What happens to the customer’s contact information?

The contact information that has to be given - name, phone number, email address - is private, and protected by France’s data protection laws. 

It is illegal for restaurants to distribute this information, or to use it to contact clients for promotional means. 

If there is a case of coronavirus at the restaurant, the contact information of all the clients who were there at the same time will be passed on to health insurance bodies and/or the regional health agency, who will then get in touch with the affected customers. 

Your information should be held by the restaurant for no longer than 14 days, and then destroyed. 

Independent data regulator the Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés published an example of a form for restaurants to use (see below). 

The system of customers providing their contact details to restaurants has already been in place in many European countries for a while, including the UK, Germany and Belgium. 

England and Wales’ new coronavirus tracing app, NHS Covid-19, can be used to check-in to venues using a QR code. 

What happens if you refuse to provide the contact information?

There are no legal consequences for anyone who refuses to hand over their contact information. The restaurant staff can prohibit the person from entering, though. 

On the other hand, if a restaurant in a maximum alert area is open and is not enforcing this system, the owner can be fined €135. 

Read more: 

Why the UK's coronavirus apps are more popular than France's

How do I find out the Covid measures where I live in France?

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