In a sign of the ongoing tension between European privacy officials and Facebook, the social network was today fined $166,000 in France over changes to its terms and conditions that were announced in 2014.
The fine is modest for a company of Facebook’s size. But France’s Commission Nationale de l’informatique, or CNIL, noted that France is just one of several European states that have been probing the impact of those changes. Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain also have ongoing investigations at various stages.
The issue concerns the announcement Facebook made at the time regarding a new tool that it said would help simplify users’ management of their information, as well as clarifying who could and could not see it. Facebook launched Privacy Basics to address ongoing criticism about the vagueness of its rules and difficulties understanding how and when various content could be viewed by others.
However, several European data agencies said the changes also imposed new rules that allowed Facebook to combine users’ data in new ways and to track them via cookies that violated privacy laws.
CNIL said it was not clear to users, for instance, that Facebook continued to gather information on them even when they visited third-party sites that had installed one of the company’s social modules.
The French agency issued an order in January 2016 requiring Facebook to modify its terms regarding combining user data and tracking users. But CNIL decided the company has not responded sufficiently since that time.
After a hearing on March 23, CNIL decided to proceed with the fine.