French regulator fines Google and Amazon millions for cookies

French privacy watchdog CNIL has handed out millions of fines to Google and Amazon for placing advertising cookies on their French websites without prior consent and without providing sufficient information.

It concerns two separate fine decisions. Under one fine decision, Google LLC will be fined EUR 60 million, to which Google Ireland will be fined another EUR 40 million. The other fine decision concerns a fine of 35 million euros for Amazon Europe Core.

In the case of Google, the CNIL found on March 16 during an online survey on Google.fr that cookies were automatically placed on the computer of a visitor to this site without requiring any action on the part of the visitor. Several of these cookies were used for advertising purposes, according to the regulator.

Amazon is dealing with a similar situation. The French privacy watchdog conducted various investigations on the Amazon.fr website between December 12, 2019 and May 19, 2020. In doing so, the CNIL found that cookies were automatically placed on a visitor’s computer without the visitor having any influence. Here too, several of these cookies were used for advertising purposes, the regulator reports.

According to the privacy watchdog, both cases are in breach of the French Data Protection Act. This mainly concerns two violations: the placement of cookies without prior consent and a lack of information to the website visitor about the placement of the cookies.

For example, according to the CNIL, the information provided by Amazon was too general and website visitors could not properly understand that the cookies were placed for advertisements. The regulator blames Google, among other things, for the mechanism to block advertising cookies, in part, not working properly. Although users were able to deactivate advertising personalization, one of the advertising cookies was still stored on the users’ computers and remained active.

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