Is Publishing a List of Famous Jews a Crime in France?

JTA reports:

A made-in-France iPhone app called “Jew or Not Jew?” was removed from the French app store, its creator, Johann Levy, told JTA….

French Jewish and human rights groups argued that the application, which came out in early August and allows users to guess whether public personalities are Jewish or not, violates French law forbidding the collection of personal data such as a person’s religion or ethnicity without permission from the individual.

The law was largely founded on the principle that Nazi occupiers used similar methods to round up Jews during World War II and send them to death camps….

“I did it out of healthy intentions. I am Jewish myself,” Levy said Tuesday on French radio Europe 1. “The goal was just to bring a feeling of pride to Jews when they see that such-and-such a businessman or celebrity is also Jewish.”

According to French law, Levy’s actions could technically cost him five years in prison and about $412,000 in fines, and SOS Racism announced it would file an official complaint for “an illicit” database by the end of this week….

The Apple Store also was facing legal responsibility for approving the sale of the application for about $1, but SOS Racism said it would only pursue the store if it refused to remove the program from sale….

Levy said he found all his information concerning the more than 3,500 individuals on the Internet and argued the data was already public.

It seems to me that talking about who’s Jewish and who’s not — or who’s a Scientologist, or who’s an atheist, or who’s an evangelical Christian — is something that people should be free to do, whether they do it on an iPhone or otherwise, and whether or not they create a list of the people they think belong to that religious group. That such lists were once made by evil people bent on evil acts, or even that such lists could be abused in the future, does not, I think, suffice to justify punishing them. But French law seems to disagree.

If you know more about the details of the law, and about whether Levy’s critics are right to say that his actions are illegal, please post about this in the comments. Likewise, if you know how the law would apply to, say, Wikipedia entries, whether biographical entries on individual people or entries that list famous Jews (or famous members of other groups), please post about that as well. Thanks to Prof. Howard Friedman (Religion Clause) for the pointer.