Brussels (Brussels Morning) France’s data privacy watchdog, the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL), has fined US tech giants Google and Amazon 100 million and 35 million euros, respectively, RFI reported yesterday, Thursday.
The CNIL fines cite the two tech companies for placing advertising cookies on their users’ devices without consent, and notes that the companies failed to inform the users about this. Cookies are small packages of data stored on user devices that websites use to indentify track user activity, a crucial aspect of targeted advertising as well as for improving user experience.
CNIL’s steepest fine thus far
The fine on Google, the largest CNIL has imposed to date, is based on the fact that some 90% of internet users in France use Google’s search engine. CNIL notes that the website google.fr automatically placed several advertising cookies on the devices of users visiting its site, indicating that no further action was required on the user’s part.
The privacy watchdog points out that the situation with one page on the amazon.fr site is similar. “No matter what path the users used to visit the website, they were either insufficiently informed or never informed of the fact that cookies were placed on their computer.” This was in violation of data privacy regulations, CNIL says, since such cookies may only be placed after obtaining user consent.
More adjustments needed
Since Google and Amazon implemented changes in September, their websites ask for consent before placing cookies on users’ device.
However, CNIL cites the lack of transparency, noting that neither company provides clear or complete information about their cookie policies and the option to refuse them.
In addition to criticising Google for failing to provide privacy information and inform users about the placement of cookies, CNIL points out how Google’s procedures to block cookies still left one operational.
It ordered the two tech giants to implement required changes within three months or face additional fines.
Google, Amazon respond
Google insists it provides “upfront information and clear controls” to its users, with a company representative complaining that “French rules and regulatory guidance are uncertain and constantly evolving.”
Amazon complained as well, asserting that it continuously updates personal data protection policies to keep up with expectations of regulators and needs of users.