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Google and Amazon fined €135M over misuse of cookies by French data watchdog

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The regulator criticised the firms for not getting consent before placing the trackers

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

France’s data protection regulator, the Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés or CNIL, has fined Google and Amazon a total of €135 million (around $163 million) between them for violating the country’s data protection laws. Google was fined a total of €100 million (around $121 million), while Amazon was fined €35 million (around $42 million).

In both cases, CNIL’s complaints were similar. It said that in the past, when users visited either company’s French website, cookies — including some used for advertising — were placed on their devices without prior consent. Although both have since updated their websites to require a user’s consent before placing cookies, the regulator criticized their cookie information banners for not providing enough information, or for making it clear enough that visitors can turn down these cookies. The regulator gave both a deadline of three months to fix the outstanding issues, or risk being fined €100,000 (around $120,000) per day.

Responding to news of the fine, a spokesperson from Amazon said the company disagreed with CNIL’s decision. “We continuously update our privacy practices to ensure that we meet the evolving needs and expectations of customers and regulators and fully comply with all applicable laws in every country in which we operate,” the company said.

Google also pushed back against the regulator, and said it stands by its efforts to provide information about tracking and control to users. “Today’s decision under French ePrivacy laws overlooks these efforts and doesn’t account for the fact that French rules and regulatory guidance are uncertain and constantly evolving. We will continue to engage with the CNIL as we make ongoing improvements to better understand its concerns,” a spokesperson from Google said.

The latest fines provide more evidence that European regulators are serious about enforcing data privacy rules, which have strengthened considerably in recent years. Bloomberg notes that CNIL’s latest fine for Google is double its previous record fine, also levied against Google. Google has so far been fined over €8 billion in a series of antitrust fines brought by the European Commission.