European Watchdog Makes Move On Stricter Regulation for Internet Browser Cookies

The European privacy watchdog has recommended tougher regulation of the practice of using “cookies” for online advertising. 

According to HG, a cookie is a tracking program that advertising companies download to a computer in order to follow a user’s online actions. This then enables the advertising provider to send the user advertisements based on their individual preferences.

Online marketers have been employing this strategy for a while. However, it has sparked debate about whether secretly transferring cookies to a user’s computer is ethical and respects their right to privacy and data protection.

EU Watchdog on How To Handle Internet Browser Cookies

The EU’s ePrivacy Directive governs cookies and other tracking technology, therefore, regulation of cookie banners is often devolved to authorities in Member States.

Countries like Germany had little trouble with this as their laws were already strict enough to cater to the situation dictated by the directive. Meanwhile, the Netherlands has opted to elevate cookies to the level of personal information in their own domestic law, even though this is not specifically stated in the Directive.

TechCruch reports that Neelie Kroes, an EU Commissioner, has scheduled a stakeholder meeting for January 18, 2012, in light of this. Though some believe Kroes will not cave into pressure from the watchdog, there is also speculation that Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner in charge of Fundamental Rights, may provide more assistance to the watchdog.

Additionally, Google has also developed a way for users to reject all cookies in Europe, according to The Verge. Google’s new cookie ads offer three options to correct this: “reject all,” “accept all,” or “more options.” If users are not signed into an account, the new menu will be shown on Google Search and YouTube.

Read Also: Apple Fined By France? CNIL Calls Out iPhone Maker Over Privacy Penalty

Europe’s Long-running Concern Over Data Privacy

The number of enforcements has also increased, with some watchdogs becoming increasingly active. According to Tech Times, one of these organizations is France’s CNIL, which has fined many tech giants for various cookie-related violations, including multiple enforcements and fines over the use of dark patterns to attempt to manipulate consent. These companies include Apple, Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft, and TikTok.

The CNIL’s enforcement efforts have also included corrective orders that have compelled some significant design modifications, such as Google last year updating the cookie banner it shows throughout the EU to include a top-level “refuse all” option.

The dispute began with a March 2021 complaint made by the startup advocacy group France Digitale, which claimed Apple did not abide by data protection laws. The concerns raised by the CNIL concerning Apple’s privacy compliance were first covered by POLITICO last year.

As per the 2019 CNIL guidance on the ePrivacy Directive, consent is required for ad tracking. However, the French commission discovered that iOS version 14.6 automatically read identifiers from the user’s iPhone. In the regulator’s view, this processing took place without Apple gaining the appropriate consent because the regulator determined that the setting used to collect consent was pre-checked by default.

Related Article: Apple, China Relationship Called ‘Untenable’ Amidst Criticism

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