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Facebook fined for violating French digital privacy regulations

In a sign of the ongoing tension between European privacy officials and Facebook, the social network was fined $166,000 in France today over changes in is terms and conditions announced in 2014.

The fine is modest for a company of Facebok’s size. But France’s Commission Nationale de l’informatique or CNIL, noted that it’s just one of several European states that was probing the impact of the changes Facebook announced in 2014. Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain also have ongoing investigations at various stages.

The issue concerns the announcement Facebook made at the time regarding a new tool that it said would help simplify users’ management of their information as well as who could and could not see it. Called “Privacy Basics,” the company launched it to address ongoing criticism about the vagueness of its rules and the complexity of understanding how and when various content could be viewed by others.

However, several European data agencies said the changes also imposed new rules that allowed Facebook to combine users’ data in new ways and track them as well via cookies that violated privacy laws.

CNIL said it was not clear to users, for instance, that Facebook continued to gather information on them even when they visited third-party sites that has installed one of the company’s social modules.

CNIL previously issued an order in January 2016 requiring Facebook to modify its terms regarding combining user data and tracking them. But since then, CNIL decided the company has not done enough in response.

After a hearing on March 23, CNIL decided to proceed with the fine.

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