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Apple should pay €6m to French data watchdog for tracking users without consent, says official

Apple tracked users without their consent and deserves to be fined €6 million, according to a top advisor to France’s data privacy watchdog. 

The Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés (CNIL) launched an investigation into Apple after a complaint filed by France Digitale, a lobby group supporting startups, accused the company of violating EU privacy laws last year. 

The release of iOS 14 gave consumers greater control over their personal data. iPhone and iPad Users could stop companies tracking their online activity in apps by changing their privacy settings. The move hurt Facebook as well other smaller businesses and app developers since it prevented them from using the data to serve users with targeted adverts.

France Digitale, however, claimed Apple’s privacy policies did not extend to its own apps and services. In other words, the iGiant tracks its own users without their explicit consent and doesn’t give them the choice to opt-out. Now, Francois Pellegrini, a rapporteur working on behalf for CNIL, has sided with the lobby group. He recommended Apple be fined €6 million ($6.3 million) for flouting the European Union’s ePrivacy directive.

The directive, which came into effect in 2011, states that companies cannot retain a user’s location data or cookies without explicit permission. But Apple’s iOS 14.6 version broke these rules, although they were later changed in iOS 15, Pelligrini said during a hearing on Monday, according to Reuters. 

Apple’s head of privacy, Gary Davis, disagreed and said any sanctions ordered by CNIL should be decreased and be made private. “The absence of any seriousness to the breach…means that the amount of the fine should be decreased,” he said.

Authorities at CNIL have yet to make a decision on the matter.

A €6 million fine from CNIL pales in comparison with some of the other penalties Apple has faced from French authorities. Apple has been hit with €48.5 million ($51.1 million) for antitrust violations and €25 million ($26.3 million) for throttling older iPhones.

In October, a €1.1 billion fine ($1.15 billion), the largest of its kind ever issued by the Autorité de la Concurrence – France’s antitrust body – against Apple was slashed to just €372 million ($392 million). The fine was decreased after courts dropped the charges claiming Apple conspired with distributors Tech Data and Ingram Micro to fix the prices of some Apple devices.

The Register has asked Apple for comment. ®