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22 Dec, 2022 16:24

France slaps hefty fine on US tech giant 

The authorities have accused Microsoft of imposing ad cookies on users, with the company now ordered to pay €60 million 
France slaps hefty fine on US tech giant 

US tech giant Microsoft, one of the world’s leading software producers, has been ordered to pay €60 million ($64 million) after the French authorities found it guilty of breaching local regulations. The country’s privacy watchdog said it had imposed the fine – so far, the largest this year – over the company’s unscrupulous use of ad cookies

Cookies are small files of information that a web server generates and sends to a web browser when a user visits a website. They are typically used to personalize the user experience, but also for advertising purposes. 

In a statement released on Thursday, France’s National Commission for Technology and Freedoms (CNIL) stated that Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, did not allow users to opt out of cookies easily enough. 

Investigations by French officials concluded that “when users visited this site, cookies were deposited on their terminal without their consent.” The watchdog said that “these cookies were used, among others, for advertising purposes.” 

The CNIL also found that “there was no button allowing to refuse the deposit of cookies as easily as accepting it.” 

The watchdog explained that Microsoft ended up receiving a share of third-party advertising profits which, in turn, accrued thanks to the data collected via cookies.  

The US tech giant now has three months to bring its services in line with French regulations. Should it fail to do so in time, it will face an additional penalty of €60,000 for each day overdue. 

Last year, the CNIL slapped Google and Facebook with fines of €150 million and €60 million respectively over similar breaches. 

Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Microsoft was working to address antitrust concerns raised earlier by the EU – said to stem from a complaint filed by workspace messaging app Slack last year, according to which the US tech giant had unfairly integrated its workplace chat and video app Teams into its Office product. 

Over the past decade, Microsoft has found itself at the center of multiple investigations in the EU, with the authorities imposing fines totaling €2.2 billion.