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Facebook and Google Set To Pay Over $238 Million To France For Cookies

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Data Privacy is essential on the internet, especially for top companies that pay enormous amounts for users’ data. 

This is why every country tries to monitor and access top giant tech companies’ operations, to protect their native internet users and keep them safe. Most countries achieve this by setting up private authorities in charge of data regulation. 

This is the duty of the CNIL for France. They have identified the giant companies Google and Facebook as a defaulter of the cookies legislation guiding internet usage. 

The world-leading search engine and content aggregator Google is set to pay a €150 million fine to CNIL — the French data protection regulator. 

In addition to Google being sanctioned by the authority, the giant social platform company Facebook (Meta) has also been fined the sum of €60 million in a similar allegation. 

The Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) has alleged both companies of defaulting EU privacy rules. The authorities’ news release indicated that Google and Facebook (Meta) have failed to ensure ease of cookie tracking technology rejection by French users.  

This implies that internet users in France cannot as easily reject cookies as they accept them. CNIL flags this as a violation of EU’s privacy rules since they believe there should be freedom to choose whether or not an internet user wants cookies.

The fines were levied against the U.S. and Irish Google’s operations, with both being charged $90 million and $60 million as fines, respectively. For Facebook (Meta), their Irish operation was the one found wanting by the CNIL, and a fine of €60 million was levied against it.

Both companies might also be paying more if they fail to implement CNIL recommendations within the stipulated time. Official release from the authority reads 

“In addition to the fines, the restricted committee has ordered the companies involved (Google and Facebook) to provide France internet users with easier means of refusing cookies, just like the existing means of accepting them. This will guarantee freedom of consent. Failure to do so within the next 90 days  (3 months) will attract a further penalty of €100,000 per day of delay.”

Facebook’s (Meta) spokesperson reached out to Politico to state the company’s position on the said fine by CNIL. In his words :

“The company is reviewing CNIL’s decision, and we’re committed to working with relevant authorities. Our cookie consent controls give people greater flexibility and control over their data. 

We have a new settings menu on Facebook and Instagram where users can always revisit to make changes to any of their decisions at all times. We’re committed to continually improving and developing these controls.”

A Google spokesperson also revealed in a statement that: 

‘The company is well aware of its responsibility to protect users’ trust in them, and also to respect their privacy rights and keep them safe.”

He also notified the public of Google’s commitment to actively make necessary changes and work in tandem with the CNIL regarding the recent developments, under ePrivacy directive.

It’s not the first time the French data regulator would be issuing orders or sanctions related to defaulting cookies legislation. The authority claims to have issued 100+ orders and sanctions in its 10 months of operations. 

Interestingly, Google isn’t new to a CNIL fine. The leading search engine company has been previously fined a sum of €100,000 million for cookie violations under European e-Privacy rules, and also €50 million for GDPR violations. 

Google is still contesting the previous fine at the highest court in France. The most accurate guess is that it will attempt to fight this latest sanction. 

The fine to both companies’ Irish operations will further strengthen the tension between the EU and Ireland. The former (EU) believes Ireland’s policies are too favorable towards tech giants at the expense of users’ privacy. 

It remains to be seen how this will unfold, but one certain thing is that — the CNIL isn’t willing to compromise on making cookie rejection as simple as it can be accepted. 

It’s also yet to be known whether or not Facebook (Meta)  will follow Google’s step by contesting the fine in a court.

 

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