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Google gives Europe a ‘reject all’ button for tracking cookies after fines from watchdogs

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Well-balanced menus make rejection as easy as acceptance

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Google is introducing new options to reject tracking cookies in Europe after its existing dialog boxes were found to be in violation of EU data laws.

Earlier this year, France’s data protection agency CNIL fined Google €150 million ($170 million) for deploying confusing language in cookie banners. Previously, Google allowed users to accept all tracking cookies with a single click, but forced people to click through various menus to reject them all. This asymmetry was unlawful, said CNIL, steering users into accepting cookies to the ultimate benefit of Google’s advertising business.

To remedy this, Google’s new cookie banners give clear, balanced choices: “reject all,” “accept all,” or “more options” (to exercise more granular control). The new menu will appear on Google Search and YouTube if users are not signed in to an account. (If you are signed in, you can adjust tracking options through Google’s data and privacy menu.)

The new cookie banner gives users the option to reject all tracking cookies with a single click.
Image: Google

“We’ve kicked off the launch in France and will be extending this experience across the rest of the European Economic Area, the UK and Switzerland,” writes Google product manager Sammit Adhya in a blog post announcing the changes. “Before long, users in the region will have a new cookie choice — one that can be accepted or rejected with a single click.”

The use of cookie banners in general remains a confusing and frustrating experience for most internet users. Giving people the option to reject or accept cookies was supposed to offer greater control over users’ data, but, as the Google example shows, this can depend on how these options are implemented. The European Center for Digital Rights (noyb), which campaigns for proper cookie menus, says that 90 percent of users click to accept all cookies, but only 3 percent actually want them. Changes like those implemented by Google are small, certainly, but could help shift this balance.