EFEParis, May 16

Online networking giant Facebook was fined 150,000 euro ($166,000) by France's Internet regulator on Tuesday for failing to comply with French data protection laws.

The National Commission on Informatics and Liberty ruled that Facebook had tracked its users and failed to prevent their data from being harvested and made available to advertisers without consent.

The watchdog also criticized Facebook for specifically pursuing a "massive compilation of Internet users' personal data in order to display targeted advertising."

The French authority said Facebook collected data derived from users' browsing activity on third-party websites without the consumers' prior knowledge or authorization.

The CNIL said its investigation revealed that Facebook's social media network had collected data "via FB's datr cookie, without their knowledge."

The CNIL added that, based on what Facebook told its users on its cookie banner, the information provided did not allow them to clearly understand their data was being systematically collected as soon as they navigated on a third site including a social plugin.

Thus, Facebook's policy of using their "datr" cookie was "unfair due to the lack of clear and precise information," CNIL said in a statement.

In 2015, the CNIL launched an investigation into Facebook and created a contact group with the data protection authorities from another four European Union countries: Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany.

Facebook then said it was proceeding with a global revision of its data policy, cookie policy, and contractual terms.

The Chair of the CNIL issued on Jan. 26, 2016, a formal notice to FACEBOOK Inc. and FACEBOOK Ireland to comply, within three months, with the French Data Protection Act.

The US internet corporation and its Irish subsidiary both provided "unsatisfactory responses" to the notice, according to the CNIL.

Following a hearing on Mar. 23, 2017, the CNIL considered that Facebook had proceeded to compile all the information it had on account holders to display targeted advertising and that it had done so "without a legal basis."

Facebook told news organizations that it respectfully disagreed with the regulator's opinion.

The CNIL also criticized that Facebook collected sensitive data such as political leanings, religious faith or sexual orientation they may have included in their profiles without prior authorization.