France Fines Google $120 Million, Amazon $42 Million for Tracking Users

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

France’s data protection agency CNIL has fined Google $120 million, and Amazon $42 million, for dropping tracking cookies without consent. Google’s revenue in the third quarter of 2020 reached $46.2 billion.

The regulator has been investigating Google and Amazon over the past year and discovered tracking cookies were automatically dropped when a user visited the domains, which is in breach of France’s Data Protection Act, according to a report by Tech Crunch.

“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,” wrote CNIL of Google in the penalty notice.

The report added that under French and European law, site users should have been clearly informed before the cookies were dropped and asked for their consent.

Google was found to have three consent violations related to dropping non-essential cookies, while Amazon was found to have made two violations.

In Amazon’s case, its French site displayed a banner informing arriving visitors that they agreed to its use of cookies. But CNIL says this did not comply with transparency or consent requirements, because it was not clear to users that the company was using cookies for ad tracking. Users were also not given the opportunity to consent.

As for Google, when a user selected to deactivate personalized advertising, it only partially worked, as one advertising cookie remained stored on the user’s machine and continued to process data in violation of France’s consent law.

Both Google and Amazon disagreed with CNIL’s decision, but nonetheless made changes to their sites. Amazon updated its French site in September so that it stops automatically dropping the tracking cookies.

Google also stopped automatically dropping the cookies on its Google.fr domain after an update in September. However, the CNIL says that a new cookie notice presented to users still does not provide the appropriate information about what the cookies are used for nor inform users that they can refuse them.

Due to this, the CNIL has also slapped Google with an order, giving the tech giant three months to correct the cookie notices so they provide adequate information to users, or else risk further fines of €100,000 per day until the violation stops.

CNIL says that its $120 million fine is justified due to the severity of Google’s three violations related to dropping non-essential cookies.

In the third quarter of 2020, Google reported revenues of $46.2 billion, and revenue from advertising stood at $37.09 billion, which is up from $33.79 billion in the third quarter of 2019, according to Exchange 4 Media.

“We had a strong quarter, consistent with the broader online environment,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

You can follow Alana Mastrangelo on Facebook and Twitter at @ARmastrangelo, on Parler at @alana, and on Instagram.

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