The 150-million-euro fine imposed by France's National Commission for Information Technology and Freedom (CNIL) set a new record, surpassing previous cookie-related penalties of 100 million euros imposed in December 2020.
Authorities in France announced Thursday that they have fined Google and Facebook 210 million euros ($237 million) for their usage of "cookies," the data used to follow people online.
Apple and Amazon, among other US internet firms, have come under increasing scrutiny in Europe for their business methods, with large fines and attempts to impose far-reaching EU laws on how they operate.
A fine of 60 million euros was imposed on Facebook.
"CNIL has found that the websites facebook.com, google.fr, and (Google-owned) youtube.com do not allow users to reject cookies as easily as they accept them," the regulatory authority stated.
The two platforms have three months to change their ways, after which France would levy a penalty of 100,000 euros per day, according to the CNIL.
Following the judgment, Google assured AFP that it would adjust its procedures.
"In line with internet users' expectations... we are dedicated to adopting new measures and actively working with CNIL in response to its judgment," the US company said in a statement.
When a person visits a website, cookies are small data packets that are stored on their computer, allowing web browsers to save information about their experience.
They're extremely significant to Google and Facebook as a way to personalize advertising, which is their core revenue stream.
Privacy supporters, on the other hand, have long fought back.
Since the European Union approved a law on personal data in 2018, internet companies have been subjected to harsher regulations that require them to obtain users' explicit agreement before placing cookies on their devices.
Notices issued 90 times
According to CNIL, Google, Facebook, and YouTube make consenting to cookies as simple as clicking a single button, whereas refusing the request necessitates many clicks.
It had given internet corporations until April 2021 to comply with the new privacy laws, warning that if they did not, they would face consequences.
The first to be sanctioned was the French daily Le Figaro, which was fined 50,000 euros in July for enabling advertising partners to install cookies without users' direct agreement, or even after they had rejected them.
Since April, the CNIL has sent 90 formal notices to websites, according to the organization.
It fined Google and Amazon, respectively, 100 million and 35 million euros in 2020 for their usage of cookies.
The fines were imposed in accordance with an older EU regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation, with CNIL claiming that the companies failed to provide "sufficiently clear" cookie information to consumers.