Posted March 9, 2011 8:07 am by with 4 comments

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The European governing bodies continue to put severe pressure on web sites to protect the privacy of web users. In a move that will seem harsh to many, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is putting together laws that will require sites to let users opt in so that the site can use cookies to track them.

The BBC reports

From 25 May, European laws dictate that “explicit consent” must be gathered from web users who are being tracked via text files called “cookies”.

The section of the directive dealing with cookies was drawn up in an attempt to protect privacy and, in particular, limit how much use could be made of behavioural advertising.

How are businesses responding? This tweet from Tweetmeme’s CEO Nick Halstead says it all.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) (not to be confused with the other IAB, the Interactive Advertising Bureau) has set up a site to help understand the world of behavioral advertising but that seems to be geared toward consumers as the URL might indicate,

As for the European businesses to be impacted by this there is a bit of an uproar because US based businesses are not in need of compliance once this comes into play. As TechCrunch Europe reports

From 25 May, new European laws will dictate that “explicit consent” must be gathered from web users who are being tracked via cookies. That translates into warnings which will put off consumers from EU sites, while US-based startups will be free to continue as they are. How convenient huh.

So, imagine a world where, after 25 May when the law kicks in, your startup has to explicitly make pop-up windows and dialogue boxes appear asking for a user’s permission to gather their data. If enforced his law will kill off the European startup industry stone dead, handing the entire sector to other markets and companies, and largely those in the US.

It’s no surprise that the European Union is leading the charge to actually make laws to monitor and control these activities. Many of the legal issues facing large online players like Google have their origins in the European Union and European Commission’s activities. No matter how you slice it though this activity is going to make it hard for European sites to compete. Here’s a final word from Tweetmeme’s Halstead

“It clearly makes UK companies less competitive because sites we build will need to be plastered with warnings – and our competitors will not. It is a well known fact that at each stage of a signup process you lose customers – if you have to have a big warning sign just for a cookie that will remember you for purely convenience so that it keeps you logged in. The user wont read that detail – they will just think your a privacy nightmare and wont sign up.”

Of course much can change between now and May 25 but as the deadline approaches expect that there will be some serious confusion and concern in the European Internet community.

Hate to think about it but could the US be too far behind?

  • Check Webtrends KB document here:

  • Users have no idea how much of there info is tracked and sold by advertisers using cookies and other forms. If they knew, they would give up those all of those Facebook games real quick, delete all of their cookies and start a protest. I am not sure this is a story about what’s going on in the UK or more a sad commentary on how little users are told about their data and tracking in the US.

    • Valid point but what happens time and time again is when people ARE told they don’t change their behavior. How many times does Facebook have to run roughshod over user privacy and yet their numbers grow. I think that everyone likes to talk tough but when it comes to giving up something like Facebook or the Internet because of a privacy concern they slither away and just deal with it.

      Let’s be honest, most of us don’t want to give up the net so we ignore the warnings even when they are in plain sight.

  • Interesting read, it does concern me that the competitive advantage may shift outside of the EU, as the post reads, every signup process we will lose customers. Enforcing this is another matter though!