France Fines Google €100M And Amazon €35M For Invading Users’ Privacy

By Myles Dacres

France’s data protection agency, the CNIL,  has hit Google and Amazon with fines for engaging tracking cookies without consent.

Google has been hit with a total of €100 million for engaging cookies on Google.fr and Amazon €35M for doing so on the Amazon.fr domain under the penalty notices issued today.

The regulator carried out investigations of the websites over the past year and found tracking cookies were automatically dropped when a user visited the domains in breach of the country’s Data Protection Act.

In Google’s case, the CNIL has found three consent violations related to dropping non-essential cookies.

“As this type of cookies cannot be deposited without the user having expressed his consent, the restricted committee considered that the companies had not complied with the requirement provided for by article 82 of the Data Protection Act and the prior collection of the consent before the deposit of non-essential cookies,” it writes in the penalty notice.

Amazon was found to have made two violations, per the CNIL penalty notice.

CNIL also found that the information about the cookies provided to site visitors was inadequate — noting that a banner displayed by Google did not provide specific information about the tracking cookies the Google.fr site had already been engaged.

Under local French (and European) law, site users should have been clearly informed before the cookies were engaged and asked for their consent.

In Amazon’s case, its French site displayed a banner informing arriving visitors that they agreed to its use of cookies. CNIL said this did not comply with transparency or consent requirements — since it was not clear to users that the tech giant was using cookies for ad tracking. Nor were users given the opportunity to consent.

The law on tracking cookie consent has been clear in Europe for years. But in October 2019 a CJEU ruling further clarified that consent must be obtained prior to storing or accessing non-essential cookies.

Sites that fail to ask for consent to track are risking a big fine under EU privacy laws.

Google and Amazon found out the hard way!

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