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EU Parliament Considers Requiring User Consent for Cookies

  |  April 7, 2009   |  Comments

The IAB Europe opposes an amendment that would alter an EU directive regarding the use of cookies in Europe.

clickz_ukandeu.gif The European Parliament could soon vote on an amendment requiring user consent when placing cookies on their machines. Some believe the proposed rule could disrupt the Internet experience of European citizens in addition to standard Web publishing and online advertising operations.

Amendment 84, championed by European Parliament Member Alexander Alvaro, could require both Internet firms and non-commercial Web sites to provide special notification, and gain prior user consent when a dropping cookies on users' computers. The amendment would alter an EU directive regarding the use of cookies in Europe.

"This amendment, if adopted, risks changing the way the Internet works today," argued Kimon Zorbas, IAB Europe vice president. "The information provided in the types of notices proposed can typically be found in Web site privacy policies, which are already required by law."

The European online advertising trade body has urged legislators to reject the proposed alterations.

IAB President Alain Heureux suggested that although the requirements could be implemented at browser level, there is a danger that EU member state legislators could interpret the directive in a way that could have negative implications on user experience, potentially resulting in a series of pop-ups and other notices as users interact with online sites and services.

"For the consumer, we argue that this is bad, and unrealistic for the functionality of the Internet. The amendment would need to be extremely clear; there is a danger that this could be interpreted in a dangerous way," said Heureux.

As well as being used to store information such as user preferences and language information, cookies are used by many online services and site publishers to target users with specific information, content, or advertising. The IAB U.K. recently published best practice guidelines surrounding the use of behaviorally targeted advertising, specifically around the issues of user education and consent.

"[Alexander Alvaro] has not provided any evidence that there are problems with the way cookies function today," Zorbas stated. "Mr. Alvaro is disregarding the fact that today's technologies provide users with the means to manage cookies through refusal, defined acceptance, and deletion of cookies."

Heureux expects European legislators to vote on the amendment by June at the latest.

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Jack Marshall

Jack Marshall was a staff writer and stats editor for ClickZ News from 2007 until August 2011. 

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