EU cookie tracking directive deadline approaches

UPDATE: The May 26th EU directive is now in full force, but I’m not convinced it will be adopted nor will it work. In fact it will put EU based business at a disadvantage to their US counterparts. 🙁 On the 26th May* the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)) will impose an EU directive designed to protect Internet users’ privacy.  As I said last year, European websites will have to police their own cookies but what about third-party cookies from advertisers? This will be more problematic to regulate under the European privacy law. The EU Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) also wants an “icon” or “logo” on adverts that when clicked shows the data that is being transmitted.

A recent study (released to the media today) of the UK’s 50 most visited websites found that 68% of the tracking analysed belonged to third-parties, usually advertisers, rather than the site’s owner.  This just confirms what I said above and back in May of last year. It’s worth pointing out that it’s not illegal to track, it’s what you do with the tracking data that may have legal consequences.  It’s worth reiterating that from 26th May this year, website admins will need to tell people that the cookies are there; explain what the cookies are doing; and obtain visitors’ consent to store a cookie on their device.

I don’t believe for one moment that organisations’ and website admins can be compliant with this directive. It’s a half baked idea. Here is why:

  • Will users look or care about the icon/logo?
  • How do you distinguish between a cookie that tracks and one that renders a page more quickly?
  • How does this directive aim to manage persistent super cookies as used in Adobe Flash for example?
  • Then there is just a small issue of how do you police this directive?

One enforcement option might be that all websites have a cookie settings pop-up message, but we all know people need to understand what they are clicking on first. I can tell you first hand, most people outside of technology, don’t know what cookies do. So without further ado, here is some information on how you can manage your cookies, see my Firefox and IE9 posts. For additional reading I suggest you search ‘cookies’ in my blog.

* The EU allowed for a 12 month grace period from the 26th May 2011. This ends on the 26th May 2012.

Safe surfing folks!

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