Google fined $57 million under European privacy law

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

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

The CNIL concluded that Google had breached the General Data Protection Regulation in two ways: by failing to meet transparency and information requirements, and failing to obtain a legal basis for processing. The lack of transparency is even more jarring to users, the watchdog said, because of the sheer volume of services Google operates - including its maps service, YouTube and app store.

"Also, the information provided is not sufficiently clear for the user to understand that the legal basis for targeted advertising is consent, and not Google's legitimate business interests", the CNIL said.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"We are very pleased that for the first time a European data protection authority is using the possibilities of GDPR to punish clear violations of the law", said Max Schrems, the leader of the nonprofit noyb.eu (None of Your Business). Google's description of why it's processing their data is "described in a too generic and vague manner", it added.

In a statement, Google said it was "studying the decision" to determine its next steps. The commission found that Google didn't present information about data-processing purposes and data-storage periods in the same place, sometimes requiring users to make five or six clicks to obtain the information.

"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. "For instance, this is the case when a user wants to have... complete information on his or her data collected for the personalization purposes or for the geo-tracking service".

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Users' "consent" is now set as the global default setting, which fails to meet the regulator's requirement that companies obtain "specific" consent.

France's maximum data protection fine used to be a mere €150,000, though it upped that to €3 million in the two years before the GDPR law took effect.

"Each day thousands of French users create a Google account on their smartphones", the CNIL said.

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.

The French watchdog said it set the fine at €50 million in light of the severity of the infringement.

Meanwhile, Google-owned YouTube is also the target of a GDPR complaint filed by NOYB for violating the "right to access" provision described in the European Union regulation's Article 15, with a maximum penalty that could reach €3.87 Billion according to the NGO.

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