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EU cookie law will hurt those it should be helping

Busybody Bureaucrats ruiin the net with a stupid cookie lawEvery time you walk into a supermarket, there are any number of cameras filming your movements. You are not informed about these cameras – you are expected to know they are there; expected to accept their presence without knowing what will happen to the data they capture.

What if, each time you walk into the shop, you are confronted on entry by a lawyer who asks you to complete a waiver form allowing the shop to film you. Most likely, you would go to another shop. But what if every shop was doing the same thing?

That’s what the internet will be like if all sites comply with the EU cookie law by the deadline of 26th May. The law came into force in May 2011 with a one year deadline for all companies to make the necessary changes to their websites.

Under the law, all websites operating in Europe must explicitly seek permission from web visitors if they are using cookies, which almost all websites do. The problem for the millions of website owners is that they now need to put an obtrusive message in the way of their visitors, asking them to accept cookies before proceeding.

One businessman (and I suspect he won’t be the last to do this) has started a protest against the law, hoping to gain support for a mass objection. Personally, I’m all for his stance. The EU cookie law is a stupid law created by people who do not understand the internet; a sledgehammer to crack a nut. If all websites comply, the web will be rendered unusable and unenjoyable and the very people the law is supposed to protect will actually be the ones who also suffer.

See these additional links about the EU cookie law:

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Published inGeneral Thoughts

4 Comments

  1. Gekkor McFadden Gekkor McFadden

    Why not instead of whinging and ranting, you study the law in detail (not just regurgitating what other web dev morons are saying) and discover how to make your webapp compliant with the new laws. You will then be out in front.

    The new laws are all about respecting people’s privacy. There is nothing wrong with that, and it is possible to preserve state on an http session without using cookies.

    • Steve Masters Steve Masters

      I’m not in the habit of regurgitating what other people say, Gekkor, I do my own research and check what the authoritative bodies have said and done. The EU cookie rules are not concerned so much with session cookies – they were written to protect the privacy of people from third party cookies, particularly tracking cookies they have no idea about and no warning about. Wanting to protect people there is understandable. The execution, however, is ridiculous because I’ve been to all the authoritative websites and spoken to several web professionals and there is no consensus on what is supposed to be done and no single approach.

      Furthermore, what the ICO has done on its website is actually less helpful to a web user than it is helpful because it bamboozles you with a whole raft of cookie information and additional third party privacy policies without letting you decide individually whether to accept cookies. It’s either “accept everything or accept nothing”, which is poor. What if you want to accept site cookies but not third party ones? What about all the sites featuring social media buttons – all of which are likely to already be running session cookies of their own? The idea behind the law is sound but the execution proves it has not been thought through properly.

      • Gekkor McFadden Gekkor McFadden

        I think it is about time that site owners took responsibility for the leakage of personal information that results from the use of social media “like” buttons and such like.

        Sites which rely on 3rd party advertising tend to be spammy and of low originality anyway. A good site can monetize its original content without the need for advertising.

        • Steve Masters Steve Masters

          Gekkor I agree with your first point there. It’s easier to be lazy when it comes to responsibility for users’ data and it needs to be reigned in a bit.

          On your second point, though, you are wrong to link third party advertising with low quality. The biggest websites in the world use third parties to sell their advertising. It’s not all done in-house. All advertising is “third party” because if it wasn’t, every site would be advertising itself.

          Not all sites can monetise content. Some are there to use content to attract people which advertisers then pay to talk to.

          The problem is not that adverts exist – it’s what happens to the user after they have been shown an advert without knowing anything about a cookie or what other things are being done with that cookie once they leave the page.

          If I buy a magazine and read an advert, that advertiser can’t do anything more about that. It can’t suddenly send me a text. On the web, you read something on one page and suddenly you are being profiled for other things you will see elsewhere. Whether that’s good or bad is debatable, and the EU cookie law is there to reign that in.

          My problem with it is in the execution.

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