Monday, 22 June 2009

Cookie monster still threatening

Most fashion websites use cookies or similar devices. Usually this is for no more sinister a purpose than to enable users to navigate through the site and to track forwards and backwards at the customer check out. They are increasingly also being used to facilitate affiliate and behavioural marketing techniques to be deployed.

Until now, website operators have simply been required to tell users about the existence of cookies and what they are used for (usually contained somewhere in the privacy policy) and to enable users to disable them through their browser settings.

Potential changes to this legislation which are being discussed by the European institutions would greatly increase this burden however. The draft provisions require operators to obtain users' "consent" to their use. One of the problems with this change is that it is not clear what is meant by consent. There is a real risk however that it could be construed as requiring an "opt in" prior consent. This would be very uncommercial for websites and the advertising industry and is it really protecting individuals in an appropriate manner? The last thing Fashionista wants when trying to race to the latest sales bargains on her favourite sites, is to be confronted with lots of pop up boxes about cookies.

The European institutions aren't going to be discussing this change again until mid September but hopefully this will give some more time for industry lobbying to ensure a proportionate and commercial approach is taken.