European YouTube and and Search users will now have the option to reject all cookies when they visit websites. Previously, the company offered users a range of options to customize their cookie preferences, with a single, bolded button suggesting they should “accept all.” If users wanted to customize their preferences, they were forced to navigate through different menus in a tedious process. Clicking “accept all" was simply easier. (We've all been there.)
France argued that those options made it more difficult for users to control how they were tracked online, and actually constituted a dark pattern scheme to encourage users to permit cookies. Because of this, the French regulator CNIL fined Google €150 million (the agency also fined Facebook for similar reasons). CNIL also threatened an additional €100,000 per day in fines should the company not comply with the country’s regulations within three months.
Google said in a blog post explaining the change that it also needed to adapt to updated rules in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the U.K.. “We’re committed to meeting the standards of that updated guidance and have been working with a number of these authorities,” the company said.
The cookie pop-ups are a result of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, which went into effect in 2018. The rules require companies to give users the option to consent or opt out of being tracked around the web. Last summer the EU fine-tuned the rules on cookies, saying that walls which restrict a user who declines cookies from accessing content were prohibited. Regulators also said that companies needed to offer users a clear way to opt out of consenting to cookies, as Europeans had been complaining that the web became unusable because of all the options they had to click through. (Relatable.)The new options on Google will streamline that process: European users are offered “accept all” and “reject all” buttons, as well as one which says “more options.” Users who are already logged into their accounts can customize tracking for the longer term in their settings.
And while Google hasn't yet tweaked its options for American users, tech companies had to make changes to adhere to GDPR's privacy requirements that ended up benefitting users globally. Fingers crossed the "reject all cookies" option makes it across the pond, too.