On May 26, the new EU-mandated “Cookie Law” will go into effect in the UK. This law requires that websites give users the ability to opt-out of all tracking. The UK and Ireland took this a step further and require users to opt-in. Website owners in the UK that fail to comply with the law will face fines up to £500,000.
Over time, I also wouldn’t be surprised to see developers start to create something like an “Auto Cookie Accept” browser plug-ins that automatically closes and accepts these types of privacy notices (e.g., an improved version of the popular pop-up blocker plug-in). After all, computers are great at automating tasks that humans don’t want to do.
To see an example of the new cookie law in action, visit the website of NDS, a UK-based company that makes software for the pay-TV industry. You will see a splash screen like this:
You can click “more information on the cookies we use and why” and see what kinds of cookies this site collects. There are three types:
- Cookies to allow the site to work (e.g. set the language, set the region, set a session ID to allow the ASP.net applications on the site to run).
- Cookies for analytics, including specifically Google Analytics, a widely used web site analytics tool.
Will every UK-based site look like this come Saturday? No. Many sites are simply going to miss the deadline on Saturday. In fact, the BBC has reported that even the government has failed to properly implement informed consent on its websites and that the majority of UK government sites will fail to comply in time. And an informal survey of FTSE 100 sites shows many have quite a ways to go to fully comply with the law.
Not surprisingly many EU website owners are unhappy with these regulations and the burden this puts on them. While it should be obvious that making the Internet harder to use for businesses and consumers is not a path forward for innovation and economic growth, clearly many EU policymakers have not gotten the message. In response, some groups have gotten together to create a website to “Stop the War on Cookies” and encourage users to petition against the new law. One supporter has made video demonstrating the absurdity of the law for the average website owner/operator (I disagree with the complaint in the video about some US companies, but that is for another post):
While I don’t expect this law to be overturned anytime soon, pressure from Internet users can be intense. It would be interesting to see the EU’s response if sites complying with this new law implemented a SOPA-like protest and included in the splash screen a notice to direct users unhappy with these notices to a protest site.
Photo credit: Flickr User Jeremy Keith