France fines Google €50 million for EU privacy breaches | News | DW | 21.01.2019
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France fines Google €50 million for EU privacy breaches

The biggest penalty so far under new EU rules was justified by the severity of the infringements of transparency, information and consent, France's regulator ruled. It is a challenge to Google's business model.

The €50 million ($57 million) fine on the US company whose revenues for 2017 were $109.65 billion was due to a lack of transparency and clarity in the way it informs users about its handling of personal data.

"The data-processing purposes, the data storage periods or the categories of personal data used for the ads' personalization" were spread over a series of documents, pages and settings, the ruling's text said. Google had also failed to properly obtain users' consent for personalized adverts, according to the ruling.

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New EU data regulations

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in May 2018. It aims to give users better control over their personal data and regulators the power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of global revenue for violations. If this maximum percentage had been applied in the case of Alphabet, it would have been in the region of $4.3 billion.

"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.

Alphabet's share of online advertising in the USA

Alphabet's share of online advertising in the USA

Google studying the ruling

In response, Google said it was studying the ruling: "People expect high standards of transparency and control from us. We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR. We're studying the decision to determine our next steps." 

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European pressure groups None Of Your Business (Noyb) and La Quadrature du Net had brought a complaint against Google and other internet companies including Facebook for failing to have a valid legal basis for processing the personal data of service users. It was this complaint which eventually led to the fine.

Facebook was fined €10 million in Italy last month for misleading its users over data practices.

jm/msh (Reuters, dpa)

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