France fines Google, Amazon €135m for privacy breach

Written by on December 10, 2020

France’s CNIL data privacy watchdog slapped 135 million euros in fines on US tech titans Google and Amazon for placing advertising cookies on users’ computers without consent.

The 100-million-euro fine against Google is the largest sanction the regulator has ever imposed, which it justified by the fact 90 per cent of French internet users use the firm’s search engine.

CNIL said the fines were “for having placed advertising cookies on the computers of users… without obtaining prior consent and without providing adequate information.”

A cookie is a small piece of data stored on a user’s computer browser that allows websites to identify users and remember their previous activity. They are important for providing targeted advertising as well as improving user experience on websites.

The CNIL said when a user visited the website, several cookies used for advertising purposes were automatically placed on his or her computer, without any action required on the user’s part.

It said a similar thing happened when visiting one page on the website.

The regulator said, “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.”

CNIL said the type of cookie used “can only be placed after the user has expressed his or her consent” and thus violated regulations on receiving prior consent.

It faulted Google for providing insufficient privacy information for users as it did not let them know about the cookies which had been placed and that the procedure to block them still left one operational.

CNIL said after redesigns implemented in September 2020 the websites of both firms stopped placing cookies on computers without consent.

However, it rapped both for still not providing clear or complete information about the use of the cookies and the possibility to refuse them, ordering both to make changes within three months or face additional fines.

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