“Sandbox”: CNIL launches call for projects on artificial intelligence in public services

28 July 2023

For its third edition, the CNIL proposes a new “sandbox” to support three projects using artificial intelligence (AI) for the benefit of public services. The call for projects is open until 30 September 2023.

A new “sandbox” dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI)

What is the personal data “sandbox”?

The CNIL’s “sandbox” is a support device for innovators in a sector concerning emerging issues. This is part of the CNIL’s action in support of innovation, one of its major missions.

On the basis of a thematic call for projects, the CNIL selects organisations that will benefit from enhanced support on their project.

Therefore, the “sandbox” aims at organisations facing emerging issues related to the regulation of personal data. By intervening at an early stage of project development, CNIL teams help the organisation identifying and implementing possible solutions.

It is not a regulatory sandbox: it does not allow the removal of legal constraints, even temporarily, because personal data law does not allow it.

The CNIL’s “sandbox” is also a way for the entire ecosystem to improve: the reports drawn from the work carried out with the project promoters are published so that other actors can benefit from them. The CNIL has published the findings of its first sandboxes on health and on digital tools in the field of education (EdTech).

Why the theme of “AI for the benefit of public services”?

The acceleration of artificial intelligence, in particular generative, has opened up new opportunities in different fields of activity, in particular in the field of public services. It can be a source of improvement in the service level quality and in particular make it possible to act on its accessibility (reduced processing times, better equal treatment, etc.), but also to facilitate the work of public officials (saving time, help with prioritisation, valorisation of data sets, etc.), with a direct impact on the daily lives of users.

The use of AI involves large volumes of personal data, often from a variety of sources. It also raises new questions from the point of view of the “personal data” regulation that actors are confronted with.

This “sandbox” is part of the CNIL’s willingness to build appropriate regulation in conjunction with the relevant stakeholders. The objective of the ‘sandbox’ is to help them develop new uses of AI that respect data subjects, helping to enable users to trust these devices.

The selected organisations will be able to benefit from the expertise of the CNIL’s new artificial intelligence department, particularly in the light of the future European AI regulation.

Apply for the call for projects

Who can apply?

The call for projects is open to:

  • projects involving the use of AI in the context of public services, in particular to improve the quality of the service, facilitate their access, and/or support the performance of public officials;  
  • public bodies (central administration, decentralised department, local authorities, public operator, etc.);
  • private bodies, provided that the project is carried out with one or more public actors (partnership, etc.) or that the project is specifically intended to fulfil a need identified by several public actors;
  • projects under development: to be truly useful, the “sandbox” does not target projects that are already operational or marketed. If the project is already deployed, it is necessary that there is no technical irreversibility (recommendations must be able to be integrated or projectable).

Projects in sectors or subjects on which the CNIL has recently decided or has set up a specific support mechanism (e.g.: EdTech, “augmented cameras”) will not be prioritised, without being excluded from the call for projects.

How to apply?

  • To participate in the call for projects, the organisation must prepare an application file to present, in French, its project and the legal or technical issues experienced in its project.
  • Once the file has been completed, an email should be sent to: bacasable[@]cnil.fr. A link will be made available to the candidate to allow him to send his file via a secure platform.
  • Project leaders may apply until 30 September 2023.

The call for projects is closed.

The stages of the CNIL’s “sandbox”

How does the “sandbox“ work?

A ‘sandbox’ accompaniment takes place over several months and consists of three sequences:

  • Support phase (6 months)

It begins with the identification of the issues to be addressed, which constitute the roadmap for accompaniment. The CNIL teams and the laureate agree together on working methods (regularity of exchanges, need for training, work workshops, etc.) to work on these issues, in order to identify pragmatic solutions adapted to the project.   

  • Implementation phase

On the basis of a deliverable, the winner implements the recommendations made by the CNIL teams in a for his project.

  • Phase of return to the ecosystem

At the end of the “sandbox”, the CNIL publishes a summary of the work and recommendations made on the various accompanied projects.

What is expected from the organisation during the “sandbox”?

The “sandbox” operates on a logic of co-construction between the project owner and the CNIL teams.

The selected organisations will have to demonstrate a real commitment throughout the ‘sandbox’ for the smooth running of the accompaniment, and in particular:

  • allocate sufficient operational resources (e.g.: presence of the Data Protection Officer, a contact point on the project, business teams when necessary, etc.)
  • be sufficiently available to organise regular exchanges and workshops.