Facebook hit by fine from French data protection watchdog

The 150,000 euro fine is small, but part of a larger effort to hold the tech giant accountable for allowing user data to be taken by advertisers.

Regis Duvignau/Reuters/File
The Facebook logo is displayed on the company's website in Bordeaux, France, in February.

Facebook has been fined 150,000 euros ($166,000) by France's data protection watchdog for failing to prevent its users' data being accessed by advertisers.

Watchdog CNIL said its fine – which was imposed on both Facebook Inc and Facebook Ireland – was part of a wider European investigation also being carried out in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, and Germany into some of Facebook's practices.

The 150,000 euro fine is small in the context of the company, which has quarterly revenue of about $8 billion and a stock market capitalization which stands at around $435 billion. But it is the maximum amount the CNIL could fine when it started the investigation on the tech giant.

The CNIL can now issue fines of up to 3 million euros, after the passing of a new law in October 2016.

Last year, the French watchdog had given Facebook a deadline to stop tracking non-users' web activity without their consent and ordered the social network to stop some transfers of personal data to the United States.

Facebook argued that the Irish data protection authority, not the CNIL, was the competent authority to formulate such orders, as the social media company's European headquarters are located in Dublin.

In a statement on Tuesday, Facebook did not say whether it would now take action as a result of the fine.

“We take note of the CNIL’s decision with which we respectfully disagree," Facebook said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

"At Facebook, putting people in control of their privacy is at the heart of everything we do. Over recent years, we've simplified our policies further to help people understand how we use information to make Facebook better," it said.

The French order was the first significant action taken against a company transferring Europeans' data to the United States following an EU court ruling last year that struck down an agreement that thousands of companies, including Facebook, had relied on to avoid cumbersome EU data transfer rules.

The transatlantic Safe Harbour pact was ruled illegal last year amid concerns over mass US government snooping. EU data protection authorities said companies had three months to set up alternative legal arrangements for transferring data.

A new EU data protection law is set to enter into force in 2018, which could see companies get fined up to 4 percent of their global turnover if they fall foul of the new regulation.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Mathieu Rosemain; Editing by Andrew Callus and Susan Fenton

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.