French watchdog slaps Google with $57M fine under new European Union law

France fines Google nearly $57 million for first major violation of new European privacy regime

Google hit with $57 MILLION fine by France’s data watchdog for murky use of personal information

The penalty is the biggest yet imposed under a new European privacy law that went into effect in 2018.

So far, GDPR fines have been much smaller under the new regime: Germany handed out a €20,000 fine to a chat app, Austria €4,800 for unlawful use of CCTV, and Portugal €400,000 to a hospital for allowing staff to gain unlawful access to data.

The fine follows complaints from privacy activists in late May past year.

Additionally, Acxiom, Oracle, Criteo, Quantcast, Tapad, Equifax, and Experian were also subjects of a GDPR complaint filed by user rights group Privacy International due to their practice of collecting the data of millions and using it to create user profiles.

The European Union's General Data Protection Regulation gives Europeans more control over their information and how companies use it.

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"We therefore expect the CNIL to respond quickly to the rest of our complaint, about Youtube, Gmail and Google Search, imposing this time a sanction of an amount proportionate to this company and the extent and the duration of the violation of our rights", the group said in a statement Monday. We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR.

In a statement, Google said it was "studying the decision" to determine its next steps. For that reason, the fine actually targeted Google LLC, in the US.

Even though many tech multinationals like Google are headquartered in the US, they still have to comply with the new rules because they have millions of users in Europe.

The CNIL said Google made it too hard for users to understand and manage preferences on how their personal information is used, in particular with regards to targeted advertising.

First, although Google does publish all the information required by the GDPR, the company makes it very hard for its users to find it and, in multiple cases, that information is not clear nor comprehensive according to CNIL.

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Additionally, the regulator said Google had failed to obtain a valid legal basis to process user data. Google also pre-ticks the boxes through which people agree to ad-personalisation.

Neither is the consent specific, the CNIL said, because Google requires full agreement to the Terms of Service and data processing in the Privacy Policy, rather than unbundling the different purposes, such as ads personalisation or speech recognition.

The CNIL said two organizations brought the claim against Google.

The maximum fine for large companies under the new law is 4% of annual turnover, meaning the theoretical maximum fine for Google is nearly €4bn. "It is not a one-off, time-limited, infringement".

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