Google logoSource: Android Central

What you need to know

  • Google has been fined over $120 million for violating French privacy laws.
  • Amazon was also fined, but to a lesser extent of about $42 million.
  • The violations surround the way companies obtain user information before consent is given.

On Thursday, both Google and Amazon were slapped with fines for violating French privacy laws. The Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés, or CNIL, is a French administration tasked with enforcing privacy laws around user data in its country. According to the CNIL, both Amazon and Google were not entirely forthcoming to consumers about the information they were collecting and what it was being used for. The fines equate to over $42 million for Amazon, while Google takes a larger hit with a $120 million fine, the largest to date by the CNIL.

Investigations into both companies commenced earlier in the year, and it was concluded that both companies began storing identifying user data, or cookies, on their websites prior to any given consent. Cookies record user browsing data in order to better allow certain entities, like advertising companies, to target users for content. According to the CNIL, neither Google nor Amazon made it clear to users how the information was being used, as well as how they could opt-out of any tracking.

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While both websites were changed in December, the changes were apparently not sufficient for regulators, who put a deadline of three months for both companies to do better and make their banners more explicit. Google, who highlighted their own privacy efforts in Europe, was not pleased with the decision.

"We stand by our record of providing upfront information and clear controls, strong internal data governance, secure infrastructure, and above all, helpful products. 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."

Amazon was also displeased, as expressed by its spokesperson. "We continuously update our privacy practices to ensure that we meet the evolving needs and expectations of customers and regulators."

Google is considering an appeal of the CNIL's decision, while Amazon remains mum on its plans. If the companies fail to meet the three-month deadline, they could incur fines of up to €100,000 per day that they fail to comply. Meanwhile, if you're looking for ways to keep your browsing activity private, we've got you covered with a list of some of the best VPN services available.

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