France inflicts fines of 210 million euros on Google and Facebook

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The Commission for Informatics and Freedoms, guardian of the private life of the French, announced Thursday that it had inflicted heavy penalties on Google and Facebook, amounting to 150 million euros and sixty million euros respectively, for their practices in the field of “cookies”, digital tracking tools used for advertising purposes.

The amount imposed on Google to pay is a record among all the penalties issued by the commission. This is a figure in excess of the 100 million euros that Google also paid in December 2020 in the case of cookies. The committee said it “acknowledged that Facebook, Google and YouTube do not allow” to refuse cookies “simply” as they are accepted, and gave the two platforms three months to implement the decision, otherwise “each company will have to pay a fine of 100,000 euros for each day of delay “. Cookies are small files that are installed by websites on visitors’ devices for targeted technical or advertising purposes.

In particular, it allows to track the user’s navigation so that companies can send him advertisements relating to his areas of interest, and are subject to continuous convictions for the violations that they can cause to the privacy of Internet users.

In a response delivered to the AFP, Google announced a change in its practices following the commission’s decision. “While respecting the expectations of Internet users (…) we undertake to implement new changes and to actively work with the Committee on Informatics and Freedom in response to its decision under the (European) (European) directive”, the Internet giant said.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said it is “evaluating the decision” of the committee and that it “will continue to work with regulators” on these issues. “We are continuing to develop cookie controls” for Internet users, the group explained.

Internet user’s consent

Since the entry into force of European personal data laws in 2018, websites have to comply with stricter rules to obtain the consent of internet users before placing their cookies.

The French commission had granted the website publishers until April 2021 to comply with these new measures and had warned that it would start punishing offenders after that deadline. In July, Le Figaro was the first to pay for this tightening, with a € 50,000 fine for cookies set by the newspaper’s partners “with no possibility for internet users to take any action” or “despite their refusal”. Finally, the Committee indicated that it had sent around 90 official communications to the website editors since the end of the grace period. Regarding the penalties imposed on Google and Facebook, the committee questions the discrepancy between the ease with which an Internet user accepts cookies and the difficulty with which he rejects them.

“The sites facebook.com, google.fr and youtube.com offer one click to immediately accept cookies,” said the French commission. Instead, he regrets having to “press multiple clicks to reject all cookies”, noting that this process “violates the freedom of consent”.

To add to the confusion, the click added by Facebook to disable trackers is called “accept cookies,” according to the panel. In general, the Commission recommends that clicking “Reject all cookies” is as easy as clicking “Accept all cookies”.

In 2020, the Commission imposed penalties of € 100 million and € 35 million respectively on Google and Amazon for setting cookies, based on principles that preceded European rules on personal data. In particular, it felt that the information provided to the internet users of the two platforms about their cookies was not “clear enough”.

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