Google Slapped with $57 Million Fine in Landmark GDPR Case

The outside of the Google offices in New York

French data privacy watchdog CNIL has fined Google €50 million (AU$79 million), making it the first penalty to face a tech giant under new GDPR laws introduced past year.

According to CNIL, Google was fined for lack of transparency, inadequate information and lack of valid consent regarding the ads personalization.

The commission said users were "not sufficiently informed" about what they were agreeing to.

This is the biggest fine that has been imposed on a tech company after GDPR rules come into effect from May previous year.

U.S. consumer advocates on Monday strongly encouraged Washington to follow Europe's lead.

The ruling brings with it a financial blow to the company, in the form of a €50 million fine - the first such fine levied by a French authority under the GDPR's expanded sanction limits. "We're deeply committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements" of the new regulations.

"The amount decided and the publicity of the fine are justified by the severity of the infringements observed regarding the essential principles of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): transparency, information and consent", the regulatory organisation said.

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The CNIL decision follows complaints by two non-governmental organizations, None Of Your Business (noyb) and La Quadrature du Net (LQDN), which the regulator said had been mandated by 10,000 people to present the case.

CNIL also calls out Google's sign-up process, which sees the firm pushing users to sign up for a Google account when setting up a device - a move that's illegal under the GDPR's content bundling rules. "It is important that the authorities make it clear that simply claiming to be compliant is not enough", said Max Schrems, Chairman of watchdog noyb.

Second, Google did not have a legal basis to process data for ad personalization because user consent was not validly obtained.

Even though many tech multinationals like Google are headquartered in the USA, they still have to comply with the new rules because they have millions of users in Europe. They said they hoped that the enforcement agency would respond soon to the rest of their complaint, and they noted that the maximum possible fine is more than $4.7 billion (roughly Rs. 33,500 crores). It has been reported that Google is "studying the decision", but the company has previously admitted it would comply with GDPR rules.

In addition, the CNIL said users "are not fully able to understand" the extent of Google's data processing, which is described as "massive and intrusive" given the number of services - 20 - offered and the sheer volume of data involved.

"Google is not the only one doing this", Massé said.

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