back to article France fines Google, Amazon €135m total for slipping ad cookies into people's computers without permission

Google and Amazon have been slapped with €100m and €35m fines respectively after France’s data privacy watchdog declared both companies had placed advertising cookies on people’s computers without their consent. The National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL) announced on Thursday that both internet goliaths had …

  1. quxinot

    Amazon: " Protecting the privacy of our customers has always been a top priority for Amazon. "

    Yes, there's 'protecting' the privacy of your users. This, however, is about 'respecting' the privacy of users.... you're doing it wrong.

    1. Alumoi Silver badge

      Amazon said 'customers' not 'users'.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Exactly

        Amazon's customers are the sellers, the users are the buyers.

  2. slartybartfast

    Block them. Delete them.

    Use an ad tracker/blocker and a program like ccleaner on your PC. As for mobile devices, I always use a browser and add/tracker blocker instead of dedicated apps where possible and delete cookies often. I’m sure this probably doesn’t go far enough but it’s at least something to try to combat the annoying cookie infestation.

    1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

      Re: Block them. Delete them.

      It's OK using trackers and blockers if you understand them - and even then it can be a pain in the neck Lots of sites don't work properly - or at all - even with Firefoxes enhanced tracking protection, never mind ad and script blockers. Whenever I go home and look at my mum's PC I don't know how she puts up with it, but if I installed any blockers she'd have to call me every day to fix inaccessible sites.

      Google et al won't stop doing this until there are real sanctions - like jail time.

      1. slartybartfast

        Re: Block them. Delete them.

        As I said, at least it’s something and I’m aware it isn’t enough. I understand blockers can disrupt site operability which is a huge pain. I, at least, seem to be doing OK with these settings.

        Yes we need proper sanctions but until (if ever) that happens, blocking and deleting ads and cookies is really all we have, whether you’re tech savvy enough to use them or not.

      2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        @Headley_Grange

        I have a friend like that. I've been educating him on web security for almost twenty years now. He uses Firefox with an adblocker and NoScript, like I taught him, except that, a few weeks ago, he admitted that he had disabled NoScript.

        It annoys him because he cannot access his usual sites likes he likes to.

        WTF ? I explained how you can just Allow the sites you work with. Where's the problem ?

        I think the problem is that many people just can't be bothered to think things through - at least, not where computers are concerned. It annoys them and <i<they don't want to know</i> .

        I spend my life on computers. It's my job, and my hobby. I breath bytes. I cannot fault other people who like other things.

        I can, however, feel dismayed by it.

        1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

          Re: @Headley_Grange

          Agreed, but t's still a pain. Even if you sort some sites out to work they can fail again when, for example, they suddenly require Amazon ad services to run properly or, as has been the case recently, the cookie consent script is blocked by default and then the site jumps to a new page which doesn't have the cookie consent script so it can't be whitelisted.

          As for educating people - for some it's too difficult. Even after dozens of support calls with my family they still don't know what Finder, file, application, extension, window, dock, address bar, menu bar........etc. mean. The conversations are a bit like the Golden Shot - move the cursor down, down, bit more - ok, can you see the blue smiley face........ Like most of the (older) population their computers are just another tool to get mail, follow family on Facebook and buy stuff from Amazon and they neither know nor care how it works under the hood.

        2. ThatOne Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: @Headley_Grange

          > It annoys them and they don't want to know

          Precisely! Not that IT is always easy to grasp, especially for older people who literally come from another age, but there is, on top of that, a marked refusal to even try. For various, not always very convincing reasons (mostly some variant of "I'm too old / it's too strange" and "I'm no techie").

        3. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: @Headley_Grange

          I'll do yo one better: I showed my fellow I.T. co-workers NoScript and they all rejected it.

          You can't fix that kind of stupid.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Headley_Grange

            The tick box isn't about installing NoScript, it's about not getting infected. How many of your IT colleagues have experienced malware problems due to not following your golden rule. Funnily enough, just because you accept that virtually every web page breaks and has to be manually fixed, doesn't mean everyone else does.

            I would suggest the risk of malware scripts running on legitimate sites is next to zero, so NoScript doesn't need to be disabled. The issue then becomes how to get users to avoid malware sites - educating them about clicking on links in emails, and checking a link goes to the site it claims is relatively easy for lay people, let alone IT professionals. And using malware blocking DNS is another simple option in the security toolbox for preventing visits to known infected sites, see:

            https://lifehacker.com/block-malware-with-cloudflares-new-dns-options-1842646761

            https://www.skadligkod.se/general-security/phishing/malicious-site-filters-on-dns-in-2020/

  3. Chris G

    Amazon and Google etc, value their customers the way a farmer values ears of wheat; they care about and nurture it enough that they can harvest it and make a profit.

    In fact a farmer probably cares a great deal more.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Farmers

      You could say the same about Cannibals

      1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge
        WTF?

        Re: Farmers

        Not really, no. Since when do cannibals raise a human heard to cull at their convenience?

        1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

          Re: Farmers

          Ah, that's what I've been doing wrong. I wondered why the buggers kept escaping. Much simpler just to harvest them from the wild.

  4. LDS Silver badge

    Privacy fines should be based on the number of users declared on financial statements

    So they can decide to be fined for false financial statements or for breaking privacy... in both cases fines should have a real impact on companies breaking the rules.

    1. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Re: Privacy fines should be based on the number of users declared on financial statements

      I think that they are... €135m is not exactly spare change. However, it's also related to the severity of infringement; in this case the problem is that they are telling people about the cookies, but the explanations are "not clear enough". Considering nobody reads the explanations anyway, I'd say this is hardly the stuff of high treason.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Privacy fines should be based on the number of users declared on financial statements

        They also weren't letting you reject them. Or rather they were on by default, which is illegal.

      2. ThatOne Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Privacy fines should be based on the number of users declared on financial statements

        > €135m is not exactly spare change

        Only if you assume they will pay it...

        But they obviously won't, they will stall and appeal, and then again, and in the end they will settle on €50k, to be paid after the pigs have landed again.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Privacy fines should be based on the number of users declared on financial statements

        "€135m is not exactly spare change"

        In the US they can be offset against tax as a business expense.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Re: Privacy fines should be based on the number of users declared on financial statements

        This is spare change for them. Their revenue is several times that PER DAY.

  5. macjules

    "C.j." Bezos here ..

    Kindly allocate the last 2 seconds of profit to paying that fine would you.

  6. RyokuMas
    FAIL

    Two words...

    "Not enough"

    As someone else has put, 135m euro is down-the-back-of-the-couch change for these guys. If there are going to be fines, they have to actually have an impact.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      Re: Two words...

      An objective assessment of the revenue raised by these breaches of cookie laws would have been useful. Whatever that turns out to be, triple it for the fine. Objective assessment, not the company's own assessment. That will require legal authority to subpoena all relevant details, with extremly heavy penalties and executive jail time for non-compliance.

      The penalty cost must greatly exceed the gains from breaking the rules, otherwise fines are (yet again) just another cost of doing business.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Two words...

      There are countries that evaluate a speeding ticket based on your revenue.

      Just daydreaming here . . .

      1. Eccella

        Re: Two words...

        Finland applies that rule for speeding. % of your annual income according to how many kph over the limit you were. Anecdotely, but pretty sure its' true, a senior Nokia exec got fined over €100,000 and a jail sentence

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Two words...

        Ant and Dec. 'Ant' boasted that his drink-driving penalty would be bound to be peanuts. The judge fined him £86,000 in response.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Two words...

          If he hadn't said that, he'd been fined a lot less. For doing exactly the same thing!!!

          In other words, the judge wasn't dispensing consistent justice, just petty vindictiveness, which is what brings the law into disrepute.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fine the EU

    What I'd like to do is fine the EU for continually wasting my time with cookie selection pop ups on every new site, and frequently reoccurring on the previously visited sites.

    I already block the cookies I don't want, the constant nagging about cookies is worse than the privacy violations of the cookies, as we know they manage to work around blocking by browser fingerprinting anyway.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Fine the EU

      What about the people who don't block the cookies they don't want because they don't know how to block them at the browser or even know why their web browser has biscuits with lumps of chocolate in them?

      Saying that browser-based blocking is the solution, for those clever enough to find the setting, also perpetuates the opt-out model and gives Google et al licence to use Flash local shared objects, web preferences, browser fingerprinting, etc... as they see fit to track you, while a few select people find a blocker for each individual thing that Google's using to track you and the rest get tracked whether they like it or not.

    2. Cederic Silver badge

      Re: Fine the EU

      While I too hate this, I'm not going to blame the EU for it.

      I blame the cunts that try to track me online. Fuck them and fuck their shitty use of technology.

    3. Trev 2

      Re: Fine the EU

      Exactly - in my admittedly non scientific checks with ordinary people (ie not techies), not one of them has ever given two hoots about cookies, tracking etc.

      They do however get sick of these stipid things popping up and interfering with their experience. I am a former techie, and I fully agree with them.

      Can we have extensive which blocks these stupid messages!?

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: Fine the EU

        Not overlooking that fact that many on sites unless you click the "Accept All" button it will hound you every time you visit. This seriously pisses me off. Even permitting the "Functional Cookies" does not allow the site to save the fact you don't want all the rest of the shite. Then there are the sites that the only way to use them is to "Agree" to a shedload of different cookies nearly all related to advertising and tracking. When faced with these now I always try to find another source first.

  8. ecofeco Silver badge

    I never get tired of corporate smackdown

    I never get tired of Europe constantly smacking down American corps.

    It never gets sold. Keep up the good work Europe! You are doing God's work!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "An Amazon spokesperson told The Register"

    Sorry, but why do you even bother reproducing canned PR responses?

    I for one would appreciate if, for the sake of brevity and clarity of understanding, you would just write something along the lines of "An Amazon spokesperson gave The Register the standard PR response in these cases", or "The Register contacted Amazon and did not obtain any substantial response".

    Seriously, if there is a legitimate journalistic reason I would like to know.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: "An Amazon spokesperson told The Register"

      > a legitimate journalistic reason

      Somebody might doing a research project on canned corporate responses?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "An Amazon spokesperson told The Register"

        That would have to be the briefest research project ever.

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