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France threatens to unfriend Facebook in three months

France's data protection watchdog is taking a stand against Facebook in the name of liberté and has given Mark Zuckerberg's company three months to get into line.

France threatens to unfriend Facebook in three months
France is threatening to break friends with Facebook unless it falls into line. Photo: AFP

France’s Commission Nationale de L’Informatique et des Libertés, otherwise known as CNIL, has given social media giant Facebook a deadline of three months by which it must stop tracking users who are not signed up members.

If not, CNIL is threatening to hit Facebook with fines.

CNIL says Facebook is following browsing activity after people visit a publicly viewable Facebook page from the site, even if they don’t have a Facebook account.

The watchdog also says Facebook sets up cookies that pass on more information when users without accounts visit other sites that use Facebook plugins.

CNIL is also not happy with Facebook apparently storing information about users’ sexual orientation as well as religious and political views, without their consent.

Plus CNIL says Facebook violated users’ right to privacy by gathering data on their habits for advertising purposes.

CNIL has invoked an order in October last year by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which declared invalid a “safe harbour” agreement governing personal data transfers between the European Union and the US.

The US and the EU this month agreed on an arrangement, called the EU-US Privacy Shield, which aims to replace the “safe harbour” but it is not currently operational.

According to CNIL, Facebook has more than 30 million users in France.

The authority went public with its deadline to the company “due to the seriousness of the violations and the number of individuals concerned by the Facebook service.”

Sally Aldous, a spokeswoman for Facebook, told Bloomberg news: “Protecting the privacy of the people who use Facebook is at the heart of everything we do. We are confident that we comply with European Data Protection law and look forward to engaging with the CNIL to respond to their concerns.”

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FACEBOOK

Facebook agrees with France to pay €106 million in back taxes

US social media giant Facebook on Monday said it had agreed with the French government to pay €106 million in back taxes for its French operations over a 10-year period from 2009, and to pay 50 percent more tax in the current year.

Facebook agrees with France to pay €106 million in back taxes
Many of the US digital giants have their EU headquarters in low-tax-regime countries. Photo: AFP

“We take our tax obligations seriously, pay the taxes we owe in all the markets in which we operate and work closely with tax administrations around the world to ensure compliance with all applicable tax laws and resolve any disputes,” a Facebook France spokesperson said in a statement.

The statement said that since 2018, Facebook changed its sales structure so that “income from advertisers supported by our teams in France is registered in this country”.

“This year we are paying €8.46 million in income tax, an increase of almost 50 percent compared to last year,” it said. 

“We have also entered into an agreement with the tax authorities covering the years 2009-2018, under which we will make a payment of €106 million.”

The payment by American digital giants of tax on revenues in the country in which they are accrued has been the subject of a longstanding conflict between France and the United States. 

Big EU countries say the so-called GAFA – Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – are unfairly exploiting tax rules that let them declare profits in low-tax havens, depriving governments of a fair share of their fiscal payments.

Many of the US digital giants have their EU headquarters in low-tax-regime countries. 

The dispute between France and the United States on the digital giants' tax has escalated to the extent that the United States in July unveiled heavy import duties on France.

The office of US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer found France's digital services tax was discriminatory and “unfairly targets US digital technology companies,” and said it would impose punitive duties of 25 percent on $1.3 billion worth of French products.

But it will hold off on collecting the fees to allow time for the dispute to be resolved.

READ ALSO: Trump's US wine tariffs 'threaten 100,000 jobs in French countryside'

 

In the meantime, France, Britain, Spain, Italy and others have imposed taxes on the largest digital companies.

US officials have slammed these moves as discriminating against American firms, and say any new levies should come only as part of a broader overhaul of international tax rules.

In January, 137 countries agreed to negotiate a deal on how to tax tech multinationals by the end of 2020, under the auspices of the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

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