Google Fined €50 Million by French Watchdog for Lack of Transparency

Anna Jefferson
January 22, 2019

CNIL said the fine was for breaking the GDPR's rules around transparency and having a valid legal basis when processing people's data for advertising purposes.

France's data privacy watchdog CNIL announced in a statement Monday that it was imposing a record sanction of 50 million euros on the USA tech giant due to "lack of transparency, unsatisfactory information and lack of valid consent for the personalization of advertisement".

In September past year, the French regulator studied the information that's made available to users when they create a Google account on a new Android phone.

Google said in a statement it's "deeply committed" to transparency and user control, as well GDPR consent requirements.

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The commission acted on complaints by two data protection advocacy groups, NOYB.EU and La Quadrature du Net, filed immediately after GDPR took effect.

"The amount decided, and the publicity of the fine, are justified by the severity of the infringements observed regarding the essential principles of the GDPR: transparency, information and consent", the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés (CNIL) said in a statement.

French regulators said Google's business practices had run afoul of Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation.

In 2018, Google faced a much larger, record US$5 billion fine for stifling competitors on Android, its smartphone operating system.

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It said the option to personalise ads was "pre-ticked" when creating an account, which did not respect the GDPR rules.

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.

The CNIL's statement goes on to note that "the infringements observed deprive the users of essential guarantees regarding processing operations that can reveal important parts of their private life since they are based on a huge amount of data, a wide variety of services and nearly unlimited possible combinations". However, the GDPR provides that the consent is "specific" only if it is given distinctly for each goal. "It is important that the authorities make it clear that simply claiming to be complaint is not enough". Companies that violate the legislation may be fined up to 20 million euros or 4 percent of their annual turnover. The company said it's deciding its next steps.

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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