Ruth Mitchell

More clarity needed around e-Privacy directive

More clarity is needed around the implementation of the European e-Privacy directive, according to experts at business advisory firm Deloitte.

In May 2011 Brussels introduced amendments to the 2003 EU e-Privacy Directive requiring websites to gain user consent for the use of tracking technologies, the most common of which are ‘cookies’.

In the UK, the Information Commissioner’s Offices (ICO) gave companies a year-long grace period to implement these changes, which comes to an end on 26 May 2012.

However, David Taylor, director at Deloitte North East believes that a number of grey areas still remain in this area, and is calling for more clarification for businesses and internet users.

He commented: “A website might sell some of its space for marketing, which is auctioned in real time to advertisers, making it near-impossible to show users immediately which cookies are going to be used.

“The questions over where responsibility lies in this situation also require further clarification.”

The ICO has offered some guidance on recommended approaches, but the requirement for opt-in consent, and potential situations where implied consent may be suitable are still in debate.

He continued: “Where companies are taking practical steps to identify and categorise the cookies they use and put in place plans for compliance, they may be less likely to be pursued by the regulator, at least in the near term.

“Where the ICO may take action is if they receive repeated complaints about a certain company, or if a company has been found to have a disregard for the law, for example through misleading individuals on the use of cookies.”

Several companies have developed their own solutions to the issue, and are using it as a way to demonstrate transparency with their customers to gain a competitive advantage through building confidence and trust with consumers. However others view taking the lead in this area as a more risky strategy, as a rushed or substandard solution could have a detrimental effect.

Mr Taylor concluded: “The law has been introduced to give consumers greater transparency and control over their own data, which is a good thing.

“The reality is that many consumers may not even know how cookies are used, so providing the information in a way that will not confuse or scare consumers is vital if this is to achieve its goal and not, as some extreme views have hinted, break the internet.”

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