Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cookies going stale

In a few previous posts I had mentioned "the cookies debate". After the amendments to the ePrivacy Directive, the consumer's consent is necessary for placing any cookies on his computer by the internet service providers (Delete cookies?!; Would you like a cookie?). This has recently been addressed by the Dutch Parliament (Cookies opt-in and net neutrality law), but also other European governments are struggling to find a proper, efficient way to fulfil the requirements of this Directive and still maintain effective and prosperous online community. Recently the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the UK as well as the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) published certain guidelines that are to help local authorities to keep their data legally. These guidelines might be helpful for any internet service provider who needs to decide what to do with the cookies he is using within his services. Interestingly, ICO announced in May 2011 that it would not actively enforce the regulations for a year. It might sound surprising if you expected the new law to immediately start having an effect on your online protection, however, this delay makes sense if you take into account the amount of controversies accompanying implementation of these new rules.


The suggested legal methods of obtaining consumers consent for placing cookies on his computer are as follows:
1. pop-ups - pros: they are difficult to avoid by consumers, and they don't interfere with the actual content and design of the website; cons: annoying;
2. terms and conditions - pros: already there on many websites, which means that service providers would only need to add one, clear paragraph on consent; cons: almost no one reads them, it would be difficult to prove actual acceptance of the terms;
3. settings-led consent: pros: consumer may give consent while choosing various preferences for using a particular website; cons: only certain websites allow this;
4. feature-led consent: as above;
5. functional uses: pros: when a consumer is browsing through a website a scrolling text appears in the header or footer of the web page to indicate that his use of the website is being tracked; cons: consumer still has to somehow give consent for further use of this data.

More on that subject in the article by Simon McDougall for The Guardian: "Cookie crumbles: confusion over data regulation"

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