France Fines Google and Facebook over cookies

French regulators have hit Google and Facebook with 210 million euros ($237 million) in fines over their use of “cookies”, the data used to track users online, authorities said Thursday. Data privacy watchdog the CNIL said both sites were making it difficult for internet users to refuse the online trackers. Consent for the use of cookies is the key to the EU’s data privacy regulation and a major priority for the CNIL.

Google, which also owns YouTube, was fined €150 million, breaking a record €100-million fine the company received in December 2020 over similar practices. Facebook has received a €60-million fine. “In accordance with the expectations of internet users… we are committed to implementing new changes, as well as to working actively with CNIL in response to its decision,” the firm said.

Following the implementation of a 2018 EU law meant to protect consumer privacy, companies are required to inform people about their use of cookies and ask for consent. CNIL has argued that many companies make it much clearer and easier to accept the use of cookies than to reject them. In 2020, it fined Amazon €60 million over its practices and said it has sent 90 formal notices to websites this year.

Cookies are little packets of data that allow web browsers to store information and provide, for example, targeted ads. “When you accept cookies, it’s done in just one click,” said Karin Kiefer, the CNIL’s head of data protection and sanctions. “Rejecting cookies should be as easy as accepting them.”

In its statement, the Commission Nationale Informatique & Liberties said it had found that while the tech giants provide a virtual button to allow the immediate acceptance of cookies, there was no equivalent to refuse them as easily.

Google, which was fined 150m euros, said: “People trust us to respect their right to privacy and keep them safe. We understand our responsibility to protect that trust and are committing to further changes and active work with CNIL in [the] light of this decision.”

Facebook, now owned by Meta, said it was “reviewing” the decision to fine it €60million. “Our cookie consent controls provide people with greater control over their data, including a new settings menu on Facebook and Instagram, where people can revisit and manage their decisions at any time, and we continue to develop and improve these controls,” it said.

French newspaper Le Figaro was the first to be sanctioned, receiving a fine of 50,000 euros in July for allowing cookies to be installed by advertising partners without the direct approval of users, or even after they had rejected them. CNIL said recently that it had sent 90 formal notices to websites since April.

But privacy advocates have long pushed back. Since the European Union passed a 2018 law on personal data, internet companies face stricter rules that oblige them to seek the direct consent of users before installing cookies on their computers.

To conclude, as we can see France has out a lot of amounts for banning cookies as it only makes people necessary to accept cookies, and for Google, it is just another way of advertising that makes it difficult to visit sites.

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