The Wall Street Journal takes a look at a European Union attempt to regulate the use of Internet “cookies,” which collect data about and can track users’ Internet searches and sites visited.
In November, we wrote about the European Union’s […] directive [that] mandates “informed consent” by users. EU member states now have until late May to write the directive into their national legislation. Legal experts say the wording leaves plenty of room for interpretation, and that’s caused Internet companies to fear that some countries could overzealously interpret the document and make websites obtain permission every time a computer user makes a visit, which could gridlock the functioning of ad-based sites.
They needn’t worry too much. Last week, a secret European Commission document written to offer formal guidance to EU member states implementing the directive surfaced. It sheds a bit of light on how EU regulators see the directive, and that’s firmly on the side of business.
There’s no language at all endorsing any kind of “opt-in” clause, which would force users to give their consent explicitly before cookies are placed on their computer. “Settings of a browser or another application” are sufficient, the document says. […]
The document also explicitly endorses the notion of self-regulation, which the industry is working on. “The Commission services consider that the industry is well placed to design innovative technical solutions,” the document says.