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Big Tech Compliance Tracker: France Fines Amazon And Google $164 Million; Australia Warns Facebook And Google To Pay News Firms

Here’s the latest news from the technology industry, which is coming under increasing scrutiny from governments around the world.

France Hits Amazon, Google With $164 Million in Penalties for Alleged Cookie Violations

The Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL), the French data protection watchdog, has hit Amazon and Google with significant financial penalties for allegedly contravening regulations on the digital advertising trackers known as “cookies,” CNBC reported.

Amazon was told to pay 35 million euros (approximately $42.5 million), while Google was told to pay 100 million euros (approximately $121.5 million). The watchdog said both firms had contravened the French Data Protection Act’s Article 82.

“People who use Google expect us to respect their privacy, whether they have a Google account or not,” a representative for Google said, per the report. “We stand by our record of providing upfront information and clear controls, strong internal data governance, secure infrastructure, and above all, helpful products.”

An Amazon representative said, per the report, “We continuously update our privacy practices to ensure that we meet the evolving needs and expectations of customers and regulators and fully comply with all applicable laws in every country in which we operate.”

Facebook and Google Could Face Large Fines With Potential Australian Legislation

Facebook and Google could face financial penalties in the millions of dollars if they don’t follow potential legislation introduced into the parliament of Australia that would require Big Tech to pay for news content that they show, The Washington Post reported.

Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg put forward the News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code and unveiled the particulars of his roadmap for Australia to become the first nation to make online platforms pay media for news.

The legislation does not specify the manner in which a payment would be handled. As a result, the platform and media company could concur on a single amount or regular payments depending on the quantity of news content harnessed.

“We are not seeking to protect traditional media companies from the rigor of competition or technological disruption, which we know benefits consumers,” Frydenberg told the Australian legislative body, per the outlet. “Rather, we are seeking to create a level playing field where market power is not misused and there is appropriate compensation for the production of original news content.”

FTC, 46 States Start Large Antitrust Suit Against Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and 46 states rolled out a large antitrust lawsuit against Facebook on Dec. 9, accusing the company of “illegally maintaining its personal social networking monopoly through a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct.”

The agency was seeking an injunction in federal court that could mandate the divestitures of assets such as WhatsApp and Instagram.

Its complaint alleges that the social media company has participated in a systemic approach, including its 2014 WhatsApp acquisition, 2012 Instagram acquisition and purported imposition of anticompetitive terms on software developers — to take away threats to its monopoly.

“Years after the FTC cleared our acquisitions, the government now wants a do-over with no regard for the impact that precedent would have on the broader business community or the people who choose our products every day,” Facebook company communications said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Ireland Unveils Supplements to New Proposed Digital Safety Law

Catherine Martin, Ireland’s minister for tourism, culture, arts, Gaeltacht (Gaelic-speaking regions), sport and media, has unveiled its finalized General Scheme of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, according to a press release from the government of Ireland.

“I am pleased to see progress in relation to this important piece of legislation,” Martin said. “Among other things, the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill will introduce a fair, proportionate regulatory framework for online safety, encompassing the regulation of certain online services, including social media companies.”

The government green lighted the General Scheme earlier this year on Jan. 9.

It has been supplemented with further provisions when it comes to the funding of a media commission, upper thresholds for financial sanctions, regulation of audiovisual media offerings, creation of a content production tax and criminal liability for senior management under the regulatory structure for digital safety.

“The finalized General Scheme includes a provision allowing the Director of Public Prosecutions to seek to hold influential position holders in a designated online service criminally liable in cases where the designated online service fails to comply with a warning notice from the Online Safety Commissioner,” according to the press release.

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