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France fines Facebook for collecting users’ data without them knowing

France's data protection agency said on Tuesday it had fined Facebook for collecting information on users without their knowledge.

France fines Facebook for collecting users' data without them knowing
Photo: AFP

France's data protection agency said on Tuesday it had fined Facebook for collecting information on users without their
knowledge, following a probe of the social network in cooperation with other European regulators.

The CNIL agency said it had slapped a penalty of 150,000 euros ($160,000) on Facebook Inc and Facebook Ireland, for “several breaches of the French Data Protection Act”, the maximum fine in such cases.

Following a two-year investigation, CNIL said Facebook had built up “a massive compilation of personal data of internet users in order to display targeted advertising”.

The American internet giant had also “collected data on browsing activity of internet users on third-party websites, via the 'datr' cookie, without their knowledge”, the agency said. This was “unfair tracking”, it said.

The French action is part of a Europe-wide approach, CNIL said, with Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and the German city state of Hamburg also investigating and working with France.

Facebook had been put on notice twice to comply with French law, but provided “unsatisfactory responses”, CNIL said.

Facebook has some 33 million users in France.

Facebook said in a statement to AFP that it “respectfully” disagreed with the ruling and that it complied with European data protection laws.

The company now has four months to file an appeal with the Conseil d'Etat, France's highest administrative court. It did not say whether it will.

Last year the CNIL slapped a 100,000-euro fine on Google, another US internet giant, for failing to delist user information from all of its search engine extensions at the request of users.

Google appealed and the case is ongoing.

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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