The European Parliament is considering a privacy bill that includes an amendment banning cookie placement without the “explicit, well-informed and freely given consent” of the Web surfer.
The bill and the amendment are backed by the European Commission, which says the prohibition of unannounced cookie placement would “enhance consumers` confidence in the use of the Internet” by easing privacy concerns. A European Commission spokesman equated cookie placement to digital trespassing, adding, “Any intrusion [on people`s computers] should be based on prior consent.” The no-cookies amendment is part of a privacy bill aimed at increasing Europeans` privacy in faxes, e-mails, and mobile phone use. The bill would prohibit spam to phones, faxes, and maybe even e-mail; companies would also not be allowed to use customer data for anything but billing and “national law-enforcement obligations.”
Danny Meadows Klue, chairman of the UK-based Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), said: “Cookies form the fundamental transmission mechanic that powers the Internet. A change in law will restrict and frustrate people using the Internet.” However, David Gearhart, director of business strategy EMEA at CRM company Epiphany, disagreed with Meadows Klue. He said: “Getting rid of cookies would make companies finally understand that they really need to know their customers, not just rely on cookies.” He added: “Companies would be forced to listen to customers and would have to work on tailoring their offerings to them.”
Meadows Klue said it will be harder for people to use the web and do simple things like search for information. He also claimed sites will have to be rebuilt to compensate for a lack of cookies.
The IAB has its fingers crossed that the European Commission and national experts in the council Working Group will scrap the amendment before the draft directive goes before the European Parliament for a second reading.
If the European Parliament follows the European Commission`s recommendation and passes this bill, each country in Europe would still have to pass their own laws enforcing it.
Last Thursday, CNET.com reported that Microsoft had warned that versions of Internet Explorer can expose consumers` personal data contained within cookies. The vulnerability exists within IE 5.5 and 6.0, but earlier browser editions “may or may not be affected,” The security flaw allows an outsider to break into cookies through a specially crafted Web page or e-mail. A person could then steal or alter data from Web accounts, including credit card numbers, usernames and passwords.