Cookies: why Amazon remains exposed to sanctions from the CNIL

Amazon falls into line with regard to its use of cookies, under pressure from the CNIL. But the American company is probably not yet completely out of the woods.

Everything is not yet settled for Amazon, but the American company can at least be satisfied with having completed an ongoing affair with the National Commission for Informatics and Freedoms (Cnil). Indeed, the French administrative body announced this Wednesday, July 21 the lifting of an injunction against the giant of electronic commerce. The file dealt with cookies.

Reminder of the facts: on December 7, 2020, the CNIL fined Amazon 35 million euros, after analyzing its cookie practices and the obligations it must follow to be in compliance. His observations were not good: vague and incomplete information, deposit of cookies without information, inability to refuse them, etc.

Also called connection cookies, cookies are computer files that are placed on the Internet user’s computer, via his web browser. They perform a variety of tasks, some of which are very useful, if not essential. Others are little appreciated: this is the case of advertising cookies, which are able to track the activity of an Internet user on the web. In fact, they are also referred to as tracers.

Numerama cookies
The use of cookies is very diverse: they are known in particular in the context of advertising and monitoring of Internet users. // Source: Claire Braikeh for Numerama

In the eyes of the Cnil, things are back to normal, at least for what fell within the scope of its injunction. The authority had left Amazon three months to review a series of practices. In particular, the company needed to inform the public, “ in advance and in a clear and complete manner », Of what she does with all her cookies and of the means available to him to refuse them.

The CNIL specifies that this only concerned cookies that are subject to consent (which includes, for example, advertising cookies). There are connection cookies that escape this: this is the case with those which are used to memorize the content of a shopping cart on a merchant site, with those which are used for certain audience or personalization measurements (change language for example).

The CNIL had summoned article 82 of the 1978 law on computers, files and freedoms to urge Amazon to change its practices. This article deals with the obligation of clear and complete information, if necessary in advance, of the purposes of cookies and of the existing means to oppose them. Amazon risked paying an additional 100,000 euros per day in case of delay, after the three months.

It should be possible to refuse cookies very easily

However, Amazon is not yet out of the woods. If he was able to put an end to this injunction and satisfy the CNIL by correcting the lack of information in time, avoiding having to pay 100,000 euros per day in addition to the penalty of 35 million euros, the group remains exposed. The CNIL does not only want a complete information banner: it also wants a loyal information banner.

This is what the Commission explains: “ This closing decision does not prejudge the analysis of the CNIL as to the compliance of the site. [envers des exigences] according to which the user should now be able to refuse cookies as easily as he can accept them “. Clearly, actions to refuse cookies must benefit from the same visibility as those to accept them.

The CNIL has not yet been able to specifically look into the case of Amazon, since this case, now closed, occurred before the deadline for these new requirements. However, the National Commission for Informatics and Freedoms warns that it leaves itself free to control the design of these banners and, if necessary, to relaunch an action against Amazon.

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