In the face of looming privacy fines, Microsoft Corp. successfully made significant alterations to Bing’s tracking technology to comply with French privacy rules. The French data protection watchdog, CNIL, has confirmed that Microsoft acted within the prescribed deadline, saving itself from additional daily fines of €60,000.
Back in December 2022, CNIL levied a hefty €60 million ($64.4 million) fine against Microsoft over Bing’s management of cookies, specifically on grounds of user consent. It was found that the Bing search engine was depositing cookies on user’s devices without prior consent, which were then used for advertising purposes. The absence of an easy opt-out function for users was also a major concern leading to the imposition of the fine.
To enforce compliance, the regulator set a three-month ultimatum for the tech giant, failing which Microsoft was to incur daily fines of €60,000. These adjustments were to allow Bing users in France to actively consent to the use of tracers that combat advertising fraud as soon as they landed on the website.
In a fortunate turn of events, Microsoft managed to meet the CNIL’s deadline, implementing the requisite modifications to the tracking technology. CNIL reported that these changes effectively ensured that tracking linked to advertising fraud would be inactive unless specific consent is obtained from French users. This timely response allowed Microsoft to avert the threatened daily fines, a major relief for the technology behemoth.
Previously, Microsoft had expressed its disagreement with the CNIL’s stance on advertising fraud, stating it would harm French individuals and businesses by allowing fraud to proliferate online. However, they fully cooperated with the regulator, introducing key changes to their cookie practices even before the investigation commenced.
This sequence of events underscores the importance of user privacy in today’s digital landscape. Companies are facing increasing scrutiny over their data handling practices, with France’s CNIL leading a rigorous campaign to ensure compliance with new rules on cookies and data privacy. Other tech giants like Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook have also faced substantial fines in the past for their handling of cookies. As regulations continue to tighten, it’s evident that businesses must adapt or face significant penalties.