Connect with us

Tech

France spanks Google $170M, Facebook $68M over cookie consent dark patterns

Published

on

France spanks Google $170M, Facebook $68M over cookie consent dark patterns

Chalk another one up for decentralized enforcement: France’s data protection watchdog has slapped headline-grabbing fines on Facebook and Google for failing to respect local (and pan-EU) cookie consent rules.

Today, the CNIL said it’s fined Google €150M (~$170M) and Facebook €60M (~$68M) for breaching French law, following investigations of how they present tracking choices to users of google.fr, youtube.com and facebook.com.

The regulator said it was acting after receiving a number of complaints.

In a clear breach of EU and French law, it found the pair do not offer an option for users to reject non-essential cookies as easily as the option they offer for them to accept all tracking.

So, in short, the tech giants were using manipulative dark patterns to try to force consent.

Here’s an illustrative snippet from the CNIL’s press release:

” … the information given by the company is not clear since, in order to refuse the deposit of cookies, Internet users must click on a button entitled “Accept cookies”, displayed in the second window. It considered that such a title necessarily generates confusion and that the user may have the feeling that it is not possible to refuse the deposit of cookies and that they have no way to manage it.

The restricted committee judged that the methods of collecting consent proposed to users, as well as the lack of clarity of information provided to them, constitute violations of Article 82 of the French Data Protection Act.”

Under EU law, if consent is the legal basis being claimed for processing people’s data there are strict standards that must be adhered to — consent must be informed, specific and freely given in order for it to be obtained legally.

Long running complaints against Facebook and Google over similarly problematic consent issues continue to languish on the desk of the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), meanwhile — which under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)’s one-stop-shop (OSS) mechanism is a quasi centralized enforcer for most of big tech.

The DPC has been accused of dragging its feet on GDPR oversight of tech giants and creating a bottleneck for effective enforcement of the regulation, as the OSS encourages forum shopping — and Ireland’s low corporate tax economy appears only too happy to oblige client corporates with low resolution regulatory oversight too.

Notably, the CNIL is taking action against Facebook and Google under an earlier piece of EU legislation — the ePrivacy Directive — which gives competence to national agencies in their own territories. So the French continue to find creative ways to apply GDPR data protection standards nationally, despite the OSS and Irish GDPR blockage.

There’s a particular irony here, in that Google and Facebook involved themselves in regional lobbying efforts to delay a planned update to the ePrivacy Directive — which would have replaced it with a regulation, as we’ve reported before.

The ePrivacy Regulation still hasn’t been adopted — despite being proposed back in 2017! Which creates inconsistencies between EU law. But does also leaves Member State-level regulators such as CNIL free to enforce ePrivacy rules within their own jurisdictions, retaining decentralized power to sanction big tech on its home turf under the ePrivacy Directive. So, er, oopsy! That’s turned into a fairly expensive mistake for Facebook and Google in France at least.

France’s regulator has been especially busy on this front — fining Google €100M back in December 2020 for dropping tracking cookies without consent. At the same time it also stung Amazon €35M over the same issue.

Earlier, the CNIL even managed to get an early GDPR fine in against Google — all the way back in 2019 — before the company realized its legal exposure and switched the legal entity handling EU users’ data from the US to Ireland so that its regional business would fall under the DPC’s ‘less muscular’ oversight.

To date, Google has not faced a single sanction under GDPR out of Ireland — despite a number of very substantial and very long running complaints filed against it, including over forced consent; its handling of location data; and its adtech.

Complaints are not only continuing to stack up against tech giants over systemic breaches of EU data protection law and against the DPC for its embarrassingly thin record on enforcement — and even for alleged corruption, in a more recent charge against Ireland — but also against the European Commission itself which stands accused of failing in its duty to monitor GDPR enforcement at a Member State level.

The Commission did intervene verbally late last year — with a direct warning to data protection agencies that GPDR enforcement must become “effective” fast or else it suggested DPAs would face having such power taken out of their hands — in favor of centralized enforcement by the EU executive.

At the same time, Google and Facebook were also blasted by the Commission which accused adtech giants of choosing legal tricks over genuine compliance with the bloc’s privacy standards, with commissioner Vera Jourová warning: “It is high time for those companies to take protection of personal data seriously. I want to see full compliance, not legal tricks. It’s time not to hide behind small print, but tackle the challenges head on.”

But despite firing a few pot-shots, the Commission appears reluctant to actually step in and sanction Ireland, though. So it’s been left to Member States like France to make the point in another way — i.e. by having its agencies illustrate that enforcement is not only possible but happening.

(See also: France’s competition watchdog taking tough action against Google, for example.)

In addition to today’s headline-grabbing fines, the CNIL has ordered Facebook and Google to change how they present cookie choices to users in France — giving the pair three months to provide local users with a means of refusing cookies that’s as simple as the existing means of accepting them — “in order to guarantee their freedom of consent”.

Failure to comply with the order will mean the companies face further penalties — of €100,000 per day of delay.

The CNIL has been focusing its oversight on cookie consents for some time.

The regulator set a deadline of March 31, 2021 for websites to comply with updated cookie guidance which it published back in October 2020. And, since the end of March, says it has adopted nearly 100 “corrective measures” (aka, orders and sanctions) related to non-compliance with the legislation on cookies.

Ireland also published updated cookie guidance, back in April 2020 — when it said it would give websites and data controllers six months to come into compliance before taking any enforcement action.

However the DPC has once again shown itself to be all mouth and no trousers: Failing to issue any public sanctions in relation to cookie consent violations against commercial entities (and certainly nothing against Facebook or Google on this front).

A DPC decision against Facebook-owned WhatsApp that was issued late last year focused on transparency breaches.

The size of that eventual penalty for WhatsApp — $267M — was also substantially inflated after interventions by other EU DPAs and the European Data Protection Board; Ireland’s draft decision had only suggested a fine of up to €50M. Facebook, meanwhile, is seeking to evade the sanction by appealing against it.)

Reached for comment on the CNIL’s spank for disingenuous cookie consents, a Meta/Facebook spokesperson said:

“​​We are reviewing the authority’s decision and remain committed to working with relevant authorities. Our cookie consent controls provide people with greater control over their data, including a new settings menu on Facebook and Instagram where people can revisit and manage their decisions at any time, and we continue to develop and improve these controls.”

The tech giant also pointed to an announcement it made in September last year about an update to its local “cookie controls” — when it said it would be giving people in Europe “a more granular level of control over their cookie choices and more information on what we use different kinds of cookies for, including what information we receive from other apps and websites”.

“This work is part of our ongoing efforts to give people greater control over their privacy and align with evolving privacy requirements, such as the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and the ePrivacy Directive (ePD),” it added at the time.

Whatever the specific fiddles Facebook made back then the changes don’t seem to have impressed the French.

At the time of writing Google had not responded to a request for comment on CNIL’s sanction but we’ll update this report if we get one.

Update: A Google spokesperson said:

“People trust us to respect their right to privacy and keep them safe. We understand our responsibility to protect that trust and are committing to further changes and active work with the CNIL in light of this decision under the ePrivacy Directive.”

Source: Tech

Tech

Dashworks is a search engine for your company’s sprawling internal knowledge

Published

on

As a company grows, the amount of important information employees need to keep track of inevitably grows right along with it. And, as your tech stack gets more complicated, that information ends up split up across more places — buried in Slack threads, tucked into Jira tickets, pushed as files on Dropbox, etc.

Dashworks is a startup aiming to be the go-to place for all of that internal knowledge. Part landing page and part search engine, it hooks into dozens of different enterprise services and gives you one hub to find what you need.

On the landing page front, Dashworks is built to be your work laptop’s homepage. It’s got support for broadcasting company wide announcements, building out FAQs, and sharing bookmarks for the things you often need and can never find — your handbooks, your OKRs, your org charts, etc.

More impressive, though, is its cross-tool search. With backgrounds in natural language processing at companies like Facebook and Cresta, co-founders Prasad Kawthekar and Praty Sharma are building a tool that allow you to ask Dashworks questions and have them answered from the knowledge it’s gathered across all of those aforementioned Slack threads, or Jira tickets, or Dropbox files. It’ll give you a search results page of relevant files across the services you’ve hooked in — but if it thinks it knows the answer to your question, it’ll just bubble that answer right to the top of the page, Google Snippets style.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Right now Dashworks can hook into over 30 different popular services, including Airtable, Asana, Confluence, Dropbox, Gmail, Google Drive, Intercom, Jira, Notion, Slack, Salesforce, Trello, and a whole bunch more — with more on the way, prioritized by demand.

Giving another company access to all of those services and the knowledge within might be unsettling — something the Dashworks team seems quite aware of. Kawthekar tells me that their product is SOC-2 certified, that all respective data is wiped from their servers if you choose to disconnect a service, and that, for teams that are equipped to host the tool themselves, they offer a fully on-prem version.

This week Dashworks is announcing that it raised a $4M round led by Point72 ventures, backed by South Park Commons, Combine Fund, Garuda Ventures, GOAT Capital, Unpopular Ventures, and Starling Ventures. Also backing the round is a number of angels, including Twitch co-founder Emmett Shear and Gusto co-founders Josh Reeves and Tomer London. The company was also a part of Y Combinator’s W20 class.

Image Credits: Dashworks

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Tech

Daily Crunch: Google will offer G Suite legacy edition users a ‘no-cost option’

Published

on

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PST, subscribe here.

Hello and welcome to Daily Crunch for January 28, 2022! It’s nearly blizzard o’clock where I am, so please enjoy the following newsletter as my final missive before hunkering down. In happier and better news, TechCrunch Early Stage is coming up in just a few months and not only am I hype about it, I’ll hopefully be there IRL. See you soon! – Alex

The TechCrunch Top 3

  • Google invests up to $1B in Airtel: With a $700 million investment and $300 million in “multi-year commercial agreements” with Airtel, and Indian telco, Google has made its second major bet on Indian infra. Recall that Google also put money into Jio, another Indian telco. The deal underscores the importance of the country in the future of technology revenues.
  • What’s ahead for Europe: On the heels of news that European startups had an outsized 2021 when it came to fundraising, TechCrunch explored what’s ahead for the continent. Some expect a slowdown from peak activity, while others anticipate further acceleration. Regardless of which perspective you favor, European venture investment is expected to remain elevated for some time to come.
  • Zapp raises $200M: And speaking of European startups, Zapp, the U.K.-based quick-convenience delivery startup, just raised a massive Series B. The company previously raised $100 million, meaning that this round was big in absolute and comparative terms. As we see some consolidation in the fast-delivery space, this deal caught our eye.

Startups/VC

  • Are charter cities the future for African tech growth? TechCrunch’s Tage Kene-Okafor has a great piece up on the site noting that “African cities have the fastest global urban growth rate,” which is leading to overcrowding. Some folks think that “charter cities offer a solution.” Special economic zones of all types have been tried before – will they offer African tech a faster route forward?
  • Personalized learning is hot: Our in-house edtech expert Natasah Mascarenhas has a great piece out today on personalized learning startups – Learnfully, Wayfinder, Empowerly, and others – that are taking the lessons of remote schooling to heart and working to make products that work better for our kids. It’s an encouraging, fascinating story.
  • Rise wants to remake team calendaring: There is no shortage of apps in the market to help individuals and teams work together. But we might not need as many as we have. That’s why Rise is making me think. The team calendaring app just raised a few million, and could replace a few tools that myself and friends use. I wonder if the solution to the Tool Overload of 2022 is tools that do less, intentionally.
  • Canvas wants non-tech folks to be able to squeeze answers from data: Developers are in short supply, so no-code tools that allow folks who don’t sling code to do their own building are blowing up. Similarly, a general dearth of data science talent in the market is creating space for tools like Canvas, which “is going all in with a spreadsheet-like interface for non-technical teams to access the information they need without bothering data teams,” TechCrunch reports.
  • Zigbang buys Samsung IoT business: The IoT promises of yesteryear are coming true, and not. Samsara recently went public on the back of its IoT business. That was a win for the category. That Zigbang, a South Korean proptech startup, is buying Samsung’s IoT unit feels slightly less bullish.
  • Series F-tw? Once upon a time I would have mocked a Series F as indication that the company in question had failed to go public. But that was then. Today Series Fs are not that rare. Indian B2B marketplace Moglix just raised one, which doubled its valuation to $2.6 billion. Tiger co-led the $250 million round.

And if you are looking down the barrel of a blizzard, TechCrunch’s Equity podcast has your downtime covered. Enjoy!

European, North American edtech startups see funding triple in 2021

Image Credits: Bet_Noire (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Pre-pandemic, VCs were notoriously reluctant to invest in education-related companies. Today, edtech startups are seeing higher average deal sizes, more seed and pre-seed funding from non-VC investors, and an influx of generalists.

According to Rhys Spence, head of research at Brighteye Ventures, funding for edtech startups based in Europe and North America trebled over the last year.

“Exciting companies are spawning across geographies and verticals, and even generalist investors are building conviction that the sector is capable of producing the same kind of outsized returns generated in fintech, healthtech and other sectors,” writes Spence.

(TechCrunch+ is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

Big Tech Inc.

  • Northern Light Venture Capital’s He Huang says the Chinese robotics market is overheated: Per the investor, robotics in China is “riddled with speculation and overvalued companies,” calling the situation a bubble. It’s worth noting that China’s central government is working to retool where its tech investment dollars flow.
  • Robinhood goes down, back up: This morning, in the wake of the company’s lackluster earnings report, TechCrunch dug through why Robinhood’s stock sold off in after-hours, pre-market, and early trading sessions yesterday and today. And then Robinhood turned around and gained ample ground during the rest of the day. It’s a weird market moment, but good news for the U.S. fintech all the same.
  • Google to allow legacy G Suite users to move to free accounts: After angering techies still using the “G Suite legacy free edition” by announcing that it was ending the program and requiring payment, the search giant has decided to ”offer more options to existing users,” TechCrunch reports. Somewhere inside of Google, a business decision just met the market and was flipped on its head. Makes you wonder who is calling the shots over there, and if they previously worked for McKinsey.

TechCrunch Experts

Image Credits: SEAN GLADWELL / Getty Images

TechCrunch wants you to recommend growth marketers who have expertise in SEO, social, content writing and more! If you’re a growth marketer, pass this survey along to your clients; we’d like to hear about why they loved working with you.

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Tech

3 experiments for early-stage founders seeking product-market fit

Published

on

At Human Ventures, we have a fund for pre-seed and seed-stage investments, a venture studio and an Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program.

Through this work, we’ve discovered a lot about how different founders fulfill their journey of customer discovery and product-market fit. One of the largest challenges for pre-seed and seed stage founders is determining where to start: There are a million things to do. What should you do at each stage?

We interviewed three founders from our portfolio, all of whom ran discovery experiments to find their product-market fit at different stages of their company’s development.

Here’s what they had to share:

Pre-MVP/customer discovery phase: Tiny Organics

Tiny Organics is a plant-based baby and toddler food company on a mission to shape childrens’ palates so they’ll choose and love vegetables from their earliest days. The company raised $11 million in their Series A in 2021 and is growing at over 500% annually.

Founders Sofia Laurell and Betsy Fore joined our venture studio as EIRs and went through a six-week discovery sprint. As Sofia explains, they knew they wanted to build something to make parents’ lives easier and threw a lot of initial ideas at the wall from the Finnish baby box 2.0 (Sofia is Finnish) to an easier way to create Instagrammable baby pictures.

They went through multiple exercises to test the viability of new parents’ most pressing and urgent needs:

  • Conduct a “Start with Why” exercise
  • Define the “Jobs to be Done”
  • Create a lean canvas for each (viable) concept
  • Define the user journeys
  • Conduct user surveys using platforms like pollfish.com and 1Q (instant survey tool)
  • Identify and define their customer personas
  • Conduct customer interviews and synthesize them
  • Construct concept prototypes

They also met prospective customers, conducting a focus group of 10-15 moms. When the founders asked them to text them what they were feeding their children along with pictures for a week, they realized the lack of healthy finger foods in the market, thus sparking the idea for Tiny Organics.

Source: Tech

Continue Reading

Trending