No more news from the cookie monster until September

Elle Todd

The EU Telecoms Ministers decided on Friday that they would not submit to pressure from Parliament to include measures relating to unlawful internet use in the ‘Telecoms Package’ which has been undergoing review for some time. This means the entire package will continue to ‘conciliation’ between the Parliament and Member States and such negotiation talks aren’t likely to commence until the first half of September.

The Telecoms Package of course contains a wide range of issues. Datonomy has discussed at length on this post previously some of the proposals surrounding notification of breaches but there are some other less publicised changes to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive which could have major implications for the industry.

In particular, there is a proposal to amend the current provisions relating to cookies and other devices. This amendment would require websites to obtain consent from site users to the use of cookies in contrast with the existing provisions which only require information and an opportunity to refuse their storage and disable them to be given. The problem is that it is not at all clear from the drafting what “consent” means. For some Member States maybe an opt-out would be sufficient but others could interpret this as a requirement for opt-in consent.

A corresponding proposed recital states that a user’s consent to accept cookies “may be expressed by way of using the appropriate settings of a browser or other application”. This is how cookies are usually disabled now but under the amended substantive provisions it is difficult to see how this will be sufficient anymore. So, could we be faced with lots of annoying pop screens every time we access a website under the new regime? Is this really what users want or need to be protected? How will this impact new advertising initiatives upon which so many sites are increasingly dependent?

Datonomy is disappointed that the debate now takes a break until September but perhaps this time is needed to try and spread the word about these potential changes and to renew lobbying efforts?

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