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Google and Amazon Fined For Misusing Online Cookies

It's not always easy being an international business – just ask the experts at Amazon and Google. While neither company is a stranger to costly penalties, fees and fines, neither one is happy about the recent fines levied against them by French officials.

According to recent reports, Google has been fined 100 million Euros, or $161 million, while Amazon has been fined 35 million Euros, or approximately $42 million, for their failure to follow France's rules regarding the use of online advertising trackers, also known as cookies.

Per the reports, both companies failed to obtain the prior consent of website visitors before saving cookies onto their computer. Moreover, both companies also failed to provide information regarding the use and storage of such cookies.

The Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertés, or CNIL, has rejected arguments from the two companies. As such, the U.S. entity of Google is responsible for paying the brunt of their fine, approximately 60 million Euros, while Google Ireland Limited, based in the EU, will be responsible for the best.

In Amazon's case, their fine will be paid by their business entity in Luxembourg. Both companies have been given a period of three months to comply with the CNIL's ruling, which states that they must change the informational banners on the websites in question, or else they will face additional fines of 100,000 Euros per day until full compliance is achieved.

At the time of this writing, the fines already levied against the companies – and specifically, Google – amount to the largest fine to date. The previous record, a fine of 50 million Euros, was also levied against Google in an earlier event. According to the CNIL, that fine also centered on Google's inability, or unwillingness, to follow the country's online standards.

In a recent statement, Google denies any wrongdoing by saying, in part: ''"We stand by our record of providing upfront information and clear controls, strong internal data governance, secure infrastructure, and above all, helpful products. Today's decision under French ePrivacy laws overlooks these efforts and doesn’t account for the fact that French rules and regulatory guidance are uncertain and constantly evolving."

Amazon, who is also facing fines from the CNIL, posted a statement saying: "We continuously update our privacy practices to ensure that we meet the evolving needs and expectations of customers and regulators and fully comply with all applicable laws in every country in which we operate."

While it's clear that neither company agrees with the CNIL's decision to levy such fines, it seems there is little they can do. As they currently owe a combined total of $217 million to the CNIL, the French watchdog group isn't likely to drop their cases any time soon.

The CNIL released their own statement regarding the issue, stating: "As this type of cookies cannot be deposited without the user having expressed his consent, the restricted committee considered that the companies had not complied with the requirement provided for by article 82 of the Data Protection Act and the prior collection of the consent before the deposit of non-essential cookies."


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