Google Slapped with $57 Million Fine in Landmark GDPR Case

France fines Google nearly $57 million for first major violation of new European privacy regime

Google has been fined $57 million by a French regulator for not presenting transparent information about its data-gathering practices.

The fine stems from digital advocacy group complaints that followed shortly after GDPR took effect in May 2018.

Google, for its part, acknowledged that "high standards" of transparency and control are expected of the company by the public and that Google is "committed to meeting those expectations and the consent requirements of the GDPR".

"Also, the information provided is not sufficiently clear for the user to understand that the legal basis for targeted advertising is consent, and not Google's legitimate business interests", the CNIL said.

While the number looks over-the-top, CNIL says that the fine was decided "by the severity of the infringements observed, " as well as Google's position in the French market.

"Following the introduction of GDPR, we have found that large corporations such as Google simply "interpret the law differently" and have often only superficially adapted their products", Schrems said in a statement. The penalty is also connected to the way the French agency sees Google as not being clear enough in a broad sense about how user data is collected and how it's subsequently used.

"We therefore expect the CNIL to respond quickly to the rest of our complaint, about Youtube, Gmail and Google Search, imposing this time a sanction of an amount proportionate to this company and the extent and the duration of the violation of our rights", the group said in a statement Monday.

French regulators said Google's business practices had run afoul of Europe's new General Data Protection Regulation. However, the GDPR provides that the consent is "specific" only if it is given distinctly for each objective. Google's description of why it's processing their data is "described in a too generic and vague manner", it added.

Essential information, such as the data processing purposes, the data storage periods or the categories of personal data used for the ads personalization, are excessively disseminated across several documents, with buttons and links on which it is required to click to access complementary information.

The end result is that Google doesn't have people's valid consent for the processing of their data - the consent is neither "specific" nor "unambiguous", as the GDPR requires, CNIL said.

The agency acknowledged that a user can make some modifications to their account once they have created it - but said "this does not mean that the GDPR is respected". Now that the new, EU-wide law is in place, the maximum is €20 million or 4% of global annual revenues. That's not the end of the story.

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