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

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Google was hit with a €50 (56,8) million financial penalty in accordance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) by the Commission Nationale de l'informatique et des Libertés (CNIL) for violating transparency and information obligations and for not obtaining user consent for processing data for ads personalization purposes.

The French regulator said the world's biggest search engine lacked transparency and clarity in the way it informs users about its handling of personal data and failed to properly obtain their consent for personalized ads.

Once the General Data Protection Regulation, known as GDPR for short, went into effect in Europe a year ago, it was regarded as only a matter of time before regulators there would use the stricter privacy framework to push back on tech giants in a way that's not happening in the US.

In response, Google said it was studying the ruling: "People expect high standards of transparency and control from us".

"For instance, this is the case when a user wants to have a complete information on his or her data collected for the personalization purposes or for the geo-tracking service". However, the GDPR provides that the consent is "specific" only if it is given distinctly for each objective.

Max Schrems and his None Of Your Business (NOYB) non-profit had been first off the blocks, complaining against Google and Facebook minutes after the GDPR took effect on May 25th.

Schrems had accused Google of securing "forced consent" via its Android mobile operating software through the use of pop-up boxes online or on its apps which imply that its services will not be available unless the conditions of use are accepted.

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"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". "It is important that the authorities make it clear that simply claiming to be complaint is not enough".

The CNIL found that despite changes implemented by Google since past year, it was still failing to respect the spirit of the new rules.

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

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.

Google has yet to issue a statement on the fine.

In 2014 it fined the company 150,000 euros - the maximum possible at the time - for failing to comply with its privacy guidelines for personal data.

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