France determined to tax digital giants like Facebook despite US anger

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Friday that France would stick to plans for a tax on digital giants such as Facebook and Apple, despite indignation in Washington.

France determined to tax digital giants like Facebook despite US anger
Bruno Le Maire says France is determined to push on with digital tax plans. Photo: AFP

“We are determined to implement a tax on the largest digital companies to bring more justice and efficiency to the international tax system,” Le Maire said as he arrived in Bucharest for talks with his eurozone counterparts.

France last month unveiled draft legislation to set a three per cent tax on digital advertising, the sale of personal data and other revenue for any technology company that earns more than €750 million worldwide each year.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has come under fire over the amount of tax the company pays. Photo: AFP

The effort comes amid rising public outrage at the minimal tax paid by some of the world's richest firms which base operations in jurisdictions that charge low rates.

France drafted the law after a European Union-wide effort it championed was scuttled by low-tax countries such as Ireland, which have wooed big technology firms.

Other countries are considering following France's lead including Britain, Spain, Austria and Italy.

Le Maire spoke just hours after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo raised his objections to the tax as he met French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Washington.

Pompeo said the tax would negatively impact US companies “and the French citizens who use them,” according to the State Department.

France's Le Maire insisted that Paris would work closely with the US to draw up a global tax reform at the OECD, the organisation of developed countries.

This was the “better solution”, Le Maire said, adding that he would hold talks with his US counterpart Steven Mnuchin next month to accelerate this process.

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French watchdog fines Google and Amazon subsidiary €135m for unauthorised cookies

France's CNIL data privacy watchdog said on Thursday it had fined two Google units a total of €100 million and an Amazon subsidiary €35 million over advertising cookies.

French watchdog fines Google and Amazon subsidiary €135m for unauthorised cookies
Photo: AFP

The regulator said the fines were “for having placed advertising cookies on the computers of users … without obtaining prior consent and without providing adequate information.”

A cookie is a small piece of data stored on a user's computer browser that allows websites to identify users and remember their previous activity.

The CNIL said when a user visited the website, several cookies used for advertising purposes were automatically placed on his or her computer, without any action required on the user's part.

It said a similar thing happened when visiting one page on the website.

CNIL said this type of cookie “can only be placed after the user has expressed his or her consent” and thus violated regulations on receiving prior consent.

It faulted Google for providing insufficient privacy information for users as it did not let them know about the cookies which had been placed and that the procedure to block them still left one operational.

CNIL also said Amazon had not provided clear or complete information about the cookies it placed on computers of users until a redesign in September 2020.

Google also stopped placing cookies on the computers of users without consent in September, CNIL said, but added it still does not provide a sufficient explanation for their use.

The regulator said “no matter what path the users used to visit the website, they were either insufficiently informed or never informed of the fact that cookies were placed on their computer.”

The €35 million fine is on the Amazon Europe Core subsidiary.

CNIL imposed fines of €60 million on Google LLC and €40 million on Google Ireland Limited.