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France fines Google, Facebook millions over tracking consent

January 7, 2022 3:13 am

French regulators on Thursday fined Google and Facebook a total of more than 200 million euros ($226 million) for not making it as easy for people to opt-out of online tracking as it is for them to accept it.

The CNIL data privacy watchdog said its investigations found that while the U.S. online giants gave French users a single button to immediately accept cookies, there wasn’t an equally simple way for them to decline because “several clicks are required to refuse all cookies.”

Cookies are snippets of code used to target internet users for digital ads and other purposes. European governments have stricter regulations than the U.S. that require websites to ask for permission before tracking a user’s activity.

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That means people face pop-up menus when they visit new websites, but there’s been growing concern that many are configured to make it confusing or tedious if they don’t want to give consent.

Visitors to Facebook, Google’s French homepage and YouTube were being nudged to say yes, which meant they weren’t freely giving their consent, a violation of French data protection rules, the CNIL said.

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