French watchdog whacks Google with £125m fine for online cookie trackers
France’s data privacy watchdog has fined Google a record €150m (£125m) for making it difficult for internet users to refuse online trackers.
Meta Platforms’ Facebook was also fined €60m for the same reason, the regulator CNIL said.
Internet users’ prior consent for the use of ‘cookies’, which are tiny snippets of data that help build targeted digital ad campaigns, is a key pillar of the European Union’s data privacy regulation and a top priority for the French watchdog.
“When you accept cookies, it’s done in just one click,” said Karin Kiefer, CNIL’s head for data protection and sanctions. “Rejecting cookies should be as easy as accepting them”.
In its statement, the watchdog said it had found that the facebook.com, google.fr and youtube.com websites didn’t allow the refusal of cookies easily, citing Google’s video-streaming platform.
The CNIL said the two companies had three months to comply with its orders, including guaranteeing that they had users consent for cookies, or face an extra penalty payment of €100,000 per day of delay.
Whilst a virtual button was provided to allow immediate acceptance of cookies, there was no equivalent to refuse them as easily.
“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 the CNIL in light of this decision,” a Google spokesperson told Reuters.
The hefty sum beats its previous record fine of €100m, which was also aimed at Google in 2020.
Last year, the UK regulator Competition and Markets Authority secured commitments from Google to address concerns about Google’s proposal to remove third-party cookies on Chrome.
Alexander Egerton, Partner and Privacy Compliance Officer at law firm Seddons, commented: “This development showcases the jurisdictional reach of privacy law.”
“The GDPR allows companies to choose which regulator regulates them. This case shows that if one regulator wants to enforce in another EU state they can proceed. As stated above, the European regulators are increasingly active – CNIL fined Amazon €746 m and the WhatsApp fine totalled €225. However, there is frustration regarding the lack of European conformity – some regulators are seen as under resourced and others as too compliant. The pressure placed on Ireland regarding WhatsApp and the approach that CNIL has taken show us that the perceived benefit of forum shopping may not crystalise.”
“This case shows us that any reform may not prevent EU regulators from challenging any change to future UK practice.”