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

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France Fines Google $57 Million over GDPR Data Privacy Violations Carl Court Getty Images21 Jan 2019

Stemming from an investigation that began in May - the day after Europe's strict new data privacy rules known as GDPR went into effect - France's data protection authority has announced a $57 million fine against Google in the first such GDPR penalty levied against a USA technology company.

Google was handed the record fine from the CNIL regulator for failing to provide transparent and easily accessible information on its data consent policies, a statement said.

Secondly, even though Google says that it asks for its users' consent before processing data meant for ads personalization, CNIL's restricted committee found that is not the case given that users are not sufficiently informed during this process and the consent is neither "specific" nor "unambiguous", as required by the GDPR.

According to CNIL, Google's violations center around the ambiguity of information presented to users about their data collection and usage, as well as failure to include information about the data retention period for some information.

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Google released a statement saying it hasn't decided yet whether to appeal this punishment, which certainly didn't come as a surprise.

Although Google responded to the decision by saying that they committed to meeting the "high standards of transparency and control" expected of them by users - as well as by the strict new European Union data law - they are nonetheless challenging the decision.

The regulator said Google had not obtained clear consent to process data because "essential information" was "disseminated across several documents".

"Following the introduction of GDPR, we have found that large corporations such as Google simply "interpret the law differently" and have often only superficially adapted their products".

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"The information on processing operations for the ads personalisation is diluted in several documents and does not enable the user to be aware of their extent", it said.

Users are also unable to understand that Google is relying on consent as the legal basis for processing under GDPR, rather than the legitimate interest of the company.

The fine stems from digital advocacy group complaints that followed shortly after GDPR took effect in May 2018. Google also pre-ticks the boxes through which people agree to ad-personalisation. We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR.

"It is not a one-off, time-limited, infringement", the agency said Monday. "It is important that the authorities make it clear that simply claiming to be compliant is not enough", he said. It added that Google's violations were aggravated by the fact that "the economic model of the company is partly based on ads personalisation", and that it was therefore "its utmost responsibility to comply" with GDPR.

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