EU Officials, Privacy Agencies Attempt to Clarify Cookie Rules

Officials in Europe this week are hoping to set clearer rules for online advertisers with new guidelines that are supported by  the continent’s leading digital privacy agencies.

Officials in Europe this week are hoping to set clearer rules for online advertisers with new guidelines that are supported by  the continent’s leading digital privacy agencies.

According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, agencies from the European Union’s (EU) member countries met last week to hammer out how existing European data privacy laws should apply to ubiquitous technologies like Web cookies, the small bits code that advertisers and Web sites deposit on the computers of Web surfers.

Much like the US, Europe has struggled to keep up with a rapidly evolving online advertising market and tools. In the new guidelines, member nations want to draw a bold line under the differences between cookies and other kinds of targeted advertising.

However, opposition from advertising groups, particularly IAB France, an affiliate of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, has mounted as the EU hashes out its guidelines. Hélène Chartier, the managing director of IAB France, is quoted by the Journal saying that the industry has “to educate consumers that targeted advertising offers benefits.” The Journal cites a statistic from IDATE that estimates Europe is slated to earn nearly a whopping $18 billion this year off of Web ads.

Some prominent firms aren’t waiting for the guidelines to act. Microsoft announced late last month that it would make its Do Not Track function, a feature that tells certain websites when users prefer not to be tracked, default on the upcoming iteration of its Internet Explorer browser, IE10. Microsoft later rescinded the plan shortly after the Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), a coalition of advertising agencies, voiced disapproval with the move.

The EU has been fighting a mostly uphill battle on the privacy front as of late. Last week, before the EU met to hash out its privacy guidelines, an audit by KPMG found 80 percent of UK firms failed to follow a law pertaining to cookies already in place. The EU had previously set a May 26 deadline mandating that websites obtain users’ consent before installing cookies on their machines. Weeks later it’s clear the so-called ‘cookie law’ is being misinterpreted, with the bulk of companies unsure of how exactly to define a cookie and how to go about getting users’ approval.

The new set of guidelines is scheduled to be published early this week, according to the Journal piece. For more, head to the WSJ.

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