French data privacy watchdog has fined tech giant Microsoft a total of €60 million over an unregulated use of advertising cookies.
The fine was defined following complaints reported to the National Commission for Technology and Freedom, France’s privacy data regulator, in September 2020 and May 2021. The reports filed were regarding the deposit of cookies on the Microsoft website Bing.
“CNIL (Commission Nationale Informatique & Libertés) found that when a user visited this site, cookies were placed on their terminal without their consent while they were pursuing, in particular, an advertising objective. She also noticed the absence of a button allowing to refuse the deposit of cookies as easily as to accept it.” states the official announcement published by the CNIL.
If you are wondering exactly what this entails, it means that cookies, data files installed on a user’s computer to track online browsing, were placed in a way that was easier to accept than deny. “One click” was required to accept the cookies, while “two clicks” were needed to refuse them. Additionally, two cookies were automatically installed on users' browsers without their consent.
These measures resulted in increased advertising profits generated from the acquired cookie data. While this is an unfair advantage in advertising, it also risks harming French individuals and local businesses.
In a statement in The Wall Street Journal, Microsoft confirmed that the issue was already addressed and that an option to deny cookies directly was implemented prior to the beginning of the investigation.
While this is the biggest fine that Microsoft has faced in 2022, it is far from the first tech giant that has been forced to address its use of irregulated cookies. The end of 2021 saw Google fined 150 million euros and Facebook fined 60 million euros by the CNIL for similar reasons.