Storms continue for technology “titans”

In the first days of the new year 2022, the “titans” of the technology world received bad news. France's National Commission for Information Technology and Freedom (CNIL) has hit two large US technology corporations, Google and Facebook, for fines over their use of “cookies” to serve the purpose of coordinating advertising information.

France has hit Google and Facebook for fines over causing difficulties for users in refusing cookies. (Photo: Reuters)
France has hit Google and Facebook for fines over causing difficulties for users in refusing cookies. (Photo: Reuters)

The two “giants” were fined 150 million EUR and 60 million EUR, respectively. These were considered record sanctions against technology companies, that CNIL has imposed. Explaining the above penalty, the CNIL said it had found that, and websites “do not make refusing cookies as easy as to accept them”. The CNIL also ordered Google and Facebook to comply with its orders for three months. If they fail to do so, the companies will have to pay additional penalties of 100,000 EUR per day of delay.

Previously, the aforementioned major US tech groups have also suffered a series of heavy fines from the governments of other European countries. In Russia, a Moscow court fined Google 7.2 billion rubles (98 million USD) over its failure to delete content Russia deems illegal. Earlier, the Russian government ordered them to delete posts promoting drug abuse and dangerous pastimes, information about homemade weapons and explosives, as well as ones with extremist and terrorist material. According to Reuters, the fine equated to over 8% of Google’s annual turnover in Russia. This was the first revenue-based fine of its kind in Russia and also a significant loss for Google.

In the context that Moscow tightened regulations for many technology groups, Google paid more than 32 million rubles in fines over its violations in 2021. However, in 2022, in addition to Google, many other tech companies are under the “control target” of the Russian Government. Moscow has been considering a law requiring large foreign IT companies such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, YouTube, Gmail, Google and Amazon, to open representative offices in Russia.

Meanwhile, Italy fined Apple and Google millions of USD. Italy's antitrust regulator announced a fine of 20 million EUR against the aforementioned technology firms for violating antitrust laws. The authority said the two tech groups did not provide "clear and immediate information" and took "aggressive practices" linked to the commercial use of user data. Earlier, Italy’s authorities also fined Apple and Amazon 200 million EUR over restricting distributors of Apple and Beats.

The “millions in fines” have been imposed as the European countries have increased their antitrust control and investigations on technology groups. In November last year, European Union lawmakers reached an agreement for technology companies with a market capitalisation of more than 90 billion USD, to limit anti-competitive practices in the digital economy. The EU’s deal bans anti-competitive practices, such as taking advantage of a dominant position in a sector to undermine rivals’ services. With the new rules, more businesses have to comply with the new EU regulations. In addition to major US technology companies including Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, the other “giants” such as Booking from the Netherlands and Alibaba from China, will also be governed by the new law.

The media and analysts said the lawmakers of the “old continents” tightened regulations on technology companies in 2021 and they will further be tightened this year. Accordingly, in the near future, it is very likely that Europe will no longer be a "good land" for global technology "giants".

Translated by NDO