In a further bizarre twist surrounding the changes to the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive forcing website owners to obtain specific consent to allow their cookies to be tracked – see our earlier post for background – Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has suggested EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes had not been accurate enough with her language leading to inconsistent advice being given.
In a Public Lecture last week at the School of Law, University of Edinburgh, Hustinx criticised Kroes for publicly supporting self-regulation efforts by the advertisers set to inform internet users about cookies being used to track them, but not necessarily obtain their consent.
Hustinx said “These associations have in fact failed to implement the new consent requirement,” suggesting that these steps do not go far enough to meet the Directive requirements “Although initiatives for increased transparency and consumer control in the online environment are most welcome, this should not result in a limitation of consumer rights. The Commission should avoid any ambiguity as to its determination in making sure that these rights are delivered in the European Union,” Hustinx addedd.
The debate is sure to run and run.
The Directive stems from 2009 when Europe’s lawmakers decided that storing and accessing information from a user’s computer was only lawful “on condition that the subscriber or user concerned has given his or her consent, having been provided with clear and comprehensive information…about the purposes of the processing”. That Directive then had to be added into national laws by 25 May 2011 which the UK duly did but is one of only five EU countries so to do.
The UK new regulations appear to conclusively implementing the Directive requiring “informed consent” to tracking from users, which set much debate about pracitalities going. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), issued guidance on how online businesses could meet the new requirements and got much criticism for being impractical. Since then the Government has announced it is working with Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and other browsers to look at developing a technical solution that is browser based and The ICO has said it is giving UK websites a year to comply with the regulations.
Expect more debate to ensue.