France data privacy watchdog, Commission Nationale de L’information et des Libertés (CNIL), has on Tuesday slammed Google with a $168 million fine, after the Alphabet Inc subsidiary was declared guilty of implementing restrictions for users to decline cookies – online trackers.
Meta Inc was also a recipient of the disciplinary measure, as the CNIL also fined the company for the same reason with Google as stated above.
This was made known in a regulatory document by the Commission. Part of the document read thus:
“In April 2021, the CNIL conducted an online investigation on this website and found that, while it offers a button to accept cookies immediately, it does not offer an equivalent solution (button or other) enabling the user to refuse the deposit of cookies as easily”.
The two companies were also given three months to alter their Cookies policies in the country.
According to the CNIL, it discovered that Alphabet’s sites which included YouTube do not have the same issue with that of Facebook as users can easily accept all cookies with one click, but they must go through various menu items to refuse them, an indication that the company is intentionally driving users towards what is more beneficial to it.
The EU and the CNIL both see the use as of cookies one of the very vital elements that the needed framework their data privacy regulation could be built on.
Cookies are also considered as a key pillar that could help tech companies develop accurately targeted digital ad campaigns.
The CNIL’s head for data protection and sanctions, Karin Kiefer, in a statement said:
“When you accept cookies, it’s done in just one click”.
“Rejecting cookies should be as easy as accepting them,” she added.
The European Union Law states that in the event users submit their data online, it’s happening with their own free will and complete understanding of the decision. In this case, the French regulatory authority judges Facebook and Google’s behaviour as trickery and misleading citizens for their own benefit by forcefully deploying what is referred to as “dark patterns.”
Dark patterns are known as user interfaces that would compel users to accept a policy or agree to install cookies, a decision they ordinarily would not make. And in this scenario, for consumers to not give their consent, they will have to exit the page, in what could be seen as a direct breach of EU laws, given it wrangles users’ consent.
If Google and Facebook do not meet the CNIL demand, they will both be risking a daily fine of almost $113 million.
Part of the CNIL’s demand would be that the two tech giants deliver French users with more straightforward tools to decline cookies and secure consumers’ consent. The CNIL in parallel stated that both tech giants are to provide an immediate acceptance of cookies.
Google while responding to the directive by CNIL through its spokesman said in a statement:
“People trust us to respect their right to privacy and keep them safe. We understand our responsibility to protect that trust and are committing to further changes and active work with the CNIL in light of this decision.”
Facebook through Meta has not yet commented on the matter.