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Google Loses Appeal as French Courts Uphold a Monster Fine of 50 Million Euros!

France’s Highest Administrative Court (“Conseil d’Etat”) seals with finality the fines imposed by the French Data Protection Authority (the “CNIL”). The CNIL sought to fine Google LLC (“Google”) under the EU General Data Protection Regulation (the “GDPR”).

In May of 2018, the non-profit associations None Of Your Business (NOYB) of Austria and La Quadrature du Net (LQDN) of France filed an action against Google claiming privacy violations. These complaints were lodged with the CNIL on the basis that Google breached the European Union online privacy rules in respect of two specific GDPR requirements, namely, users were not given enough information to make an informed decision and the lack of a legal basis for processing personal data for advertising purposes.

The CNIL shared the complaints with other EU data protection authorities and consequently commenced an investigation. The CNIL found that Google had failed to comply with the transparency and notice requirements of the GDPR and did not properly obtain consents from users for their personalised ads.

The CNIL contended that the information given to users when they create a Google account wanted in clarity and accessibility observing how critical information about data processing such as the purpose, data retention period or the type of personal data being processed for targeted ads, was spread across a number of pages. Users sometimes needed to complete multiple actions in order to access the information.

The description of some information was ambiguous and did not allow users a clear understanding of the extent of Google’s processing of data. The CNIL also found that Google failed to validly obtain users’ consent for the processing of personal data which Google uses for targeted ad personalisation. Worse, the CNIL ascertained that consent was obtained using checkboxes which were in fact pre-checked by default!

In May 2019, Google appealed the decision before the Conseil d’Etat arguing some irregularities in the CNIL findings. Unfortunately for Google, in June 2020, the Conseil d’Etat upheld the decision of the CNIL. Furthermore, the Conseil d’Etat was of the view that CNIL’s fine in the amount of 50 Million Euros was justified given the gravity of Google’s infringements.

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Disclaimer. The material in this post represents general information only and should not be taken to be legal advice.

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