A French court on Friday refused Google’s last-minute plea to suspend an order imposed by a privacy watchdog, meaning the search giant has to post a notice on its homepage for a period of 48 hours informing users that the company was fined €150,000 ($204,000) for violating data collection laws. Google complied with the order on Google.fr as of Saturday morning, as seen below:
The Friday court decision came in response to Google’s emergency appeal this week to the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest appeals court for administrative law. The company argued that the penalty — which specified that the notice had to be printed in 13-point Arial font and appear in the center the screen below the search box — was too severe and that Google’s reputation would be irreparably damaged.
In a decision and related press release issued on Friday, the French Court explained that Google had failed to show the order would cause permanent damage to its financial interests or its reputation. It added that Google had failed to show that that the privacy agency’s order was illegal, or that the public interest would be harmed by going forward with the order.
As a result, Google had to post the full paragraph set out in the agency’s original order, which informs consumers about the fine and requires a link to the decision on the privacy agency’s website.
Google can continue to appeal the underlying fine, which was imposed for the company’s failure to respect data protection and consent rules, but could not avoid the order to post the notice on Google.fr within seven days.
The €150,000 fine, which is the maximum the agency could impose, is meaningless to a company of Google’s size, but the search giant appears anxious to prevent governments telling it what to post on its homepage. Google did not immediately return an after-hours request for comment, but the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this week that the company told the court that it always “maintained that [homepage] page in a virgin state.”
This is not the first time that a European court has required an American company to post a notice on its homepage; last year, a judge ordered Apple to post a notice on its website that Samsung did not violate a design patent for its iPad. And, as MarketingLand notes, the Belgians imposed an even more draconian order on Google in 2006.
Here are the relevant parts of today’s order. I’m posting the original French with a Google Translate version below.
Here’s a portion of today’s ruling summarizing the contents of the original order:
[The agency] a décidé de prononcer à l’encontre de cette société une sanction pécuniaire de 150 000 euros, de rendre cette décision publique sur le site de la CNIL et d’ordonner à la société de publier à sa charge, sur son site internet www.google.fr, pendant une durée de 48 heures consécutives, le septième jour suivant la notification de sa décision, selon des modalités définies par celle-ci, le texte du communiqué suivant : « la formation restreinte de la Commission nationale de l’informatique et des libertés a condamné la société Google à 150 000 euros d’amende pour manquements aux règles de protection des données personnelles consacrées par la loi « informatique et libertés ».
[the agency] decided to vote against this company a fine of 150,000 euros, to make this decision public on the website of the CNIL and order the company to publish its charge on its website www.google . fr, for a period of 48 consecutive hours, the seventh day following the notification of the decision, according to procedures laid down by the latter, the text of the following statement: “the limited formation of the National Commission on Informatics and freedoms condemned the Google company 150,000 euros fine for breaches of data protection enshrined in the “Informatique et Libertés” law
Here’s the part where the court says the notice won’t permanently harm Google’s reputation or the public interest:
par ailleurs, que la société ne saurait soutenir et n’allègue d’ailleurs pas qu’une atteinte grave et immédiate pourrait être portée, par la sanction dont la suspension est demandée, à la poursuite même de son activité ou à ses intérêts financiers et patrimoniaux ou encore à un intérêt public
Moreover, the company can not and will not support also alleges a serious and immediate harm could be increased by the sanction which the suspension is requested, the same pursuit of its business or its financial interests and property or in the public interest
This story was updated at 10:45ET on Saturday to reflect that Google is complying with the order.