French regulators fined Google and Facebook a combined more than 200 million euros, or $226 million, saying the tech giants made it easier to users to accept being tracked online than to opt out.
An investigation found the sites "offer a button allowing the user to immediately accept cookies" but they do not provide an option to "easily refuse the deposit of these cookies," the CNIL data privacy watchdog announced on Thursday.
CNIL said that it would fine Google 150 million euros and fine Facebook 60 million euros as a result of the investigation's findings.
"Several clicks are required to refuse all cookies, against a single one to accept them," the group said.
"The restricted committee considered that this process affects the freedom of consent: since, on the Internet, the user expects to be able to quickly consult a website, the fact that they cannot refuse the cookies as easily as they can accept them influences their choice in favor of consent," it added.
Cookies, which are used to target users for ads and other purposes, are more strictly regulated in Europe than in the U.S. In Europe, websites must first ask before tracking a user's activity, according to The Associated Press.
Facebook, now known as Meta, told the AP that it would review the decision and work alongside 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 company said.
Google said it understands "our responsibility to protect that trust and are committing to further changes and active work with the CNIL in light of this decision," according to the wire service.
The Hill has reached out to Facebook and Google for comment.