The French data protection watchdog, the Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL), has fined Facebook (now Meta Platforms) and Google €150 million ($170 million) and €60 million ($68 million) respectively for failing to provide users with an easy way to reject cookie tracking technology.
“The websites facebook.com, google.fr, and youtube.com all provide an option that allows users to accept cookies right away,” the authority added. “However, they do not offer a comparable option (button or otherwise) that allows an Internet user to readily decline the deposit of these cookies.”
In reaction to the CNIL penalty, Facebook told TechCrunch that it was analyzing the verdict, while Google claimed it was working to modify its procedures.
HTTP cookies are small pieces of data created while a user is browsing a website and stored on the user’s computer or other device by the user’s web browser to track online activity and store information about browsing sessions, such as logins and details entered in form fields such as names and addresses.
The CNIL took issue with the way the two platforms demand many clicks to reject all cookies, rather than having a single override to reject all of them, therefore making rejecting cookies more difficult than accepting them.
According to the data protection authorities, this dark pattern impacts consent freedom, and the fact that users don’t have a better choice when it comes to rejecting cookies as readily as accepting them biases their choice in favor of consent.