General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) , Governance & Risk Management , Privacy

French CNIL Fines TikTok 5 Million Euros for Cookie Policies

Agency Says the Company's Policies Violated National Data Protection Law
French CNIL Fines TikTok 5 Million Euros for Cookie Policies
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The French data protection agency imposed fine of 5 million euros on short-form video social media platform TikTok, saying the Chinese company violated national privacy law restricting the monitoring of web browser activity.

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An investigation by the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty - known as CNIL - found TikTok's web application goaded users into enabling tracking cookies.

An inspection of the web platform in mid-2021 showed TikTok allowed French users to accept all cookies with a single click but made them click several times when rejecting additional cookies.

Most websites require the text files known as cookies to function since it is otherwise impossible for them to maintain user continuity from one click to the next - a result of internet design decisions made decades ago that treat each connection from user to server as if it was brand-new.

European governments have sought to allow consumers to reject cookies that track user activity solely for the purposes of online advertising. TikTok, which has about 1 billion average users per month globally, has emerged as the internet's new advertising juggernaut through tracking cookies on its own website and third-party websites.

In February 2022, TikTok introduced a "reject all" button giving its users the choice to either completely reject or accept TikTok cookies.

The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CNIL fined Google 150 million euros and Facebook 60 million euros for similar violations of French law meant to make rejecting cookies easy for consumers.

TikTok is at the center of a number of privacy controversies worldwide, including in the United States, where its ownership by Chinese company ByteDance has led to accusations that the app is a national security threat. The federal government and approximately 20 U.S. states have banned its use on government devices. FBI Director Christopher Wray told a congressional panel in November that the bureau has a number of concerns with TikTok.

"They include the possibility that the Chinese government could use it to control data collection on millions of users or control the recommendation algorithm, which could be used for influence operations if they so chose, or to control software on millions of devices, which gives it an opportunity to potentially technically compromise personal devices," Wray said.

About the Author

Akshaya Asokan

Akshaya Asokan

Senior Correspondent, ISMG

Asokan is a U.K.-based senior correspondent for Information Security Media Group's global news desk. She previously worked with IDG and other publications, reporting on developments in technology, minority rights and education.

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