Google to pay $55 million to France’s data watchdog CNIL for lax data consent policies

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Google loses appeal against $55 million fine against French data watchdog, CNIL for its slipshod data consent policies

Google will have to pay a record $55 million fine to the CNIL for not having proper data consent policies. France’s highest administrative authority yesterday dismissed Google’s appeal against a fine of 50 million Euros ($55 million) imposed by the French data watchdog, CNIL for failing to provide adequate information on its data consent policies.

Google was given the penalty of $55 million by CNIL in 2019 when its investigation found that Google’s consent policy was too tough for ordinary netizens to understand. It contended that Google’s data consent policy was difficult for users to understand and make an informed choice about how they would be targeted by advertisers. It didn’t help that Google’s preference management tools were also very arduous for users.

CNIL had at that time said that Google was guilty of having slipshod data consent policies under the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being applicable in the European Union. The GDPR was implemented by all EU member states in May 2019.

Google had appealed against the CNIL penalty and the hearings were going on. They reached a conclusion on Friday when the Conseil d’État or Council of State, the highest French government body that is also the court of last resort for matters of administrative justice confirmed the $55 million fine on Google.

Conseil d’État concurred with CNIL that Google’s data consent policies “do not meet the requirements of clarity and accessibility required by the GDPR.” It added that Google’s nature of data collection and the volume of data collected were “particularly intrusive.”

As for Google’s appeal against the $55 million figure, Conseil d’État said that CNIL’s fine was correct “given the particular seriousness of the breaches committed, their continuous nature and duration, the ceilings provided for by the GDPR (up to four percent of turnover) and Google’s financial situation.”

Google will have to pay the $55 million fine as well as make changes in the way it provides a clear data consent mechanism to the French users as required by Conseil d’État. There is also a fear that all European countries now invoke this particular ruling to fine Google further if it doesn’t change its data consent mechanism throughout Europe.

In a statement sent to AFP, the American giant said it would “now examine the changes we need to make”.

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