Google And Facebook Hit With $238 Million Fines In France Over Privacy Violations

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Siladitya Ray   Forbes U.S. Staff

Google And Facebook Hit With $238 Million Fines In France Over Privacy Violations

Photo: Solen Feyissa /Unsplash

France’s data protection regulator on Thursday hit Google and Facebook with fines of €150 million ($170 million) and €60 million ($68 million), respectively, for failing to provide internet users an easy way to disable online trackers, marking the latest in a series of fines faced by the two American tech giants for failing to comply with European privacy laws.

KEY FACTS

- In a statement outlining its investigation, French regulator CNIL noted that Facebook, Google and Youtube’s websites offered a button that allowed users to immediately accept cookies but did not provide a similar button to easily refuse them.

- The regulator added that the process of refusing the online trackers was several steps longer.

- The CNIL ruled that this process affects users’ freedom of consent as it influences their choice of accepting or rejecting cookies.

- While cookies can be essential for a website’s functioning—allowing for user authentication and remembering preferences among other things—they can also be used to track a user’s online behavior and serve them advertising.

- In addition to the hefty fines, both companies have been ordered to update their interface for French users—making it easier for them to reject cookies—within three months.

KEY BACKGROUND

The fines against Google and Facebook follow a series of similar regulatory actions facing U.S  tech giants including Apple and Amazon in Europe. In December 2020, Google and Amazon were hit with similar fines for their handling of web cookies to track user activities without seeking proper consent. Last year, regulators in France, the U.K., and the EU initiated formal antitrust probes into Google and Facebook’s online advertising business. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which went into effect in May 2018 has dramatically increased the powers of the bloc’s privacy enforcers. Under the law, serious privacy breaches can lead to fines of as much as 4% of a company’s annual global revenue.

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Siladitya Ray   Forbes U.S. Staff

I am a Breaking News Reporter at Forbes, with a focus on covering important tech policy and business news. Graduated from Columbia University with an MA in Business and Economics Journalism in 2019. Worked as a journalist in New Delhi, India from 2014 to 2018.