France fines Google and Facebook millions for tracking consent

French regulators fined Google and Facebook totaling more than 200 million euros because they did not make users opt-out of online tracking as easy as they accepted it

The CNIL data privacy regulator stated that its investigation found that although the AOL giant provides French users with a button to immediately accept cookies, they do not have the same simple way to refuse because “it takes multiple clicks to refuse all cookies.”

Cookies are snippets of code used for digital advertising and other purposes aimed at Internet users. European government regulations are stricter than those in the United States, requiring websites to obtain permission before tracking user activity. This means that people will face a pop-up menu when visiting a new website, but more and more people worry that if they don’t want to agree, the configuration of many websites will make it confusing or tedious.

CNIL stated that visitors to Facebook, Google’s French homepage and YouTube were nudged to say yes, which means they did not have the freedom to give their consent, which violated French data protection rules.

French regulators imposed a fine of 150 million euros ($170 million) on Google and 60 million euros ($6.8 million) on Facebook. It also threatened that if French users are not allowed to more easily refuse cookies within three months, they will be fined 100,000 euros per day.

Facebook, which has been renamed Meta, said it is reviewing the decision and is committed to cooperating with the authorities.

“Our cookie consent controls enable people to better control their data, including the new settings menus on Facebook and Instagram. People can revisit and manage their decisions at any time. We will continue to develop and improve these controls,” the company Express.

Google said: “People believe that we will respect their privacy and ensure their safety. We understand that we have a responsibility to protect this trust, and in accordance with this decision, we are committed to further changes and actively cooperate with CNIL.”

Cookies have long been a source of privacy issues because they can be used to track users on the Internet. They can be used to help remember someone’s website login details, or, more controversially, record someone’s web browsing history to target personalized ads.

The French penalties highlight a broader shift in the digital advertising industry, as the market-leading Google and Facebook, as well as European and American regulators, are working to phase out worse data collection practices. Google has announced plans to phase out so-called third-party cookies used by advertisers from its Chrome browser, but it will still be able to track users of its services.

———

Follow Kelvin Chan on Twitter.

———

View all AP’s technical reports at https://apnews.com/hub/technology.

.