The Wall Street Journal takes a look at problems in the European Union concerning restrictions of the use of Internet “cookies” (which collect data about and can track users’ Internet searches and sites visited).
Seeking to be a leader in protecting online privacy, the European Union last year passed a law requiring companies to obtain consent from Web users when tracking files such as cookies are placed on users’ computers. Enactment awaits action by member countries.
Now, Internet companies, advertisers, lawmakers, privacy advocates and EU member nations can’t agree on the law’s meaning. Is it sufficient if users agree to cookies when setting up Web browsers? Is an industry-backed plan acceptable that would let users see—and opt out of—data collected about them? Must placing cookies on a machine depend on the user checking a box each time? […]
European regulators in Brussels promise guidance by early next year. The EU’s 27 member nations are supposed to codify the rule into national laws by May. […]
The debate over the law continues in the EU’s 27 countries. Regulators expect most simply to copy the EU law. The U.K. has signaled that it will take that approach and consider browser settings sufficient to indicate consent. A French proposal slated for debate in the National Assembly would require that at installation, a browser ask the user whether to accept future cookies. It was also suggested that the browsers be required to ask every three months.
Internet-ad companies, Web portals and browser maker are watching closely. Microsoft Corp. is waiting to see if it will be required to change its Internet Explorer browser for Europe, says John Vassallo, the company’s legal counsel in Brussels. “In the end, what matters is harmonized rules across Europe,” he says.