France fines Google €50 million for European Union privacy breaches

Posted January 23, 2019

Under the E.U's data privacy law, tech giants including Google must give users a full, clear picture of the data they collect, along with simple, specific tools for users to consent to having their personal information harnessed.

In a ruling issued Monday, the French National Data Protection Commission (CNIL) said Google failed to obtain people's unambiguous consent before using their data in order to personalize ads.

The French fine could presage even tougher scrutiny of Google and the rest of Silicon Valley in Europe, which already has demonstrated its willingness to punish US-based tech companies for their missteps.

It was triggered by two complaints, one from noyb, a group created by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems.

It marks the first time the CNIL has used the EU's strict General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

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The information on processing operations for the ads personalization is diluted in several documents and does not enable the user to be aware of their extent.

The CNIL added that Google split essential information across several documents, which was sometimes only accessible following 5 or 6 actions. These organizations accused Google of lacking the legal basis for collecting and processing user data in connection with their ad personalization system.

After facing the fine, a Google representative told Techcrunch that the company is "deeply committed" to meeting the high expectations that users have from them regarding transparency and control.

The agency acknowledged that a user can make some modifications to their account once they have created it - but said "this does not mean that the GDPR is respected".

While the number looks over-the-top, CNIL says that the fine was decided "by the severity of the infringements observed, " as well as Google's position in the French market. At present, there is no reliable information available on how long the company saves user data, nor if they allow it to be used by other sites.

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In a statement, the regulator said Google's practices obscured how its services "can reveal important parts of their private life since they are based on a huge amount of data, a wide variety of services and nearly unlimited possible combinations".

Along those lines, the European Union hit Google with a record-setting $5 billion fine past year for antitrust issues related to its Android mobile operating system.

The regulator found that the information Google is required by the GDPR and the FDPA to provide the user is opaque and not easily found by a user.

This enforcement has already sent shockwaves through the Internet as it has massive implications for companies reliance on Terms of Service Agreements for all sorts of data collection.

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