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Monday, 28 July 2014

MRS warns strict EU cookie rules could 'severely disrupt' online MR

UK— The Market Research Society (MRS) has warned that overly strict interpretations of a revised EU directive requiring user consent to place cookies on computers could “severely disrupt a burgeoning and economically successful UK online research sector”.

Cookies are “essential” for online research, the MRS wrote in a submission to a Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) consultation on how best to implement the European e-Privacy directive. They are needed to avoid respondent duplication, to ensure adequate security in surveys and to measure exposure to online content and advertising.

“MRS believes that the current approach of the research sector, whereby cookie usage is detailed in the terms and conditions and/or privacy policies of the relevant websites, offering respondents the opportunity to opt out of the cookies, should be allowed to continue once the revised EU framework is implemented,” the Society said.

BIS proposes to copy the wording of the relevant article, 5(3), wholesale into UK law. The article states that consent must be given before companies are allowed to place cookies on a web user’s computer or retrieve cookie information already stored there.

The wording of the article is vague enough to have led various parties to interpret this as requiring an individual’s consent every time a cookie is used, but the UK government points to Recital 66 of the amending Directive as providing “useful clarification”.

The recital says: “Where it is technically possible and effective, in accordance with the relevant provisions of Directive 95/46/EC, the user’s consent to processing may be expressed by using the appropriate settings of a browser or other application.”

In its submission the MRS quotes European Parliament member Alexander Alvaro as saying: “Had the parliament intended the placing of all cookies on a user’s terminal to require ‘prior’ and/or ‘explicit’ consent, it would have adopted such language, consistent with other occurrences of such terms elsewhere in the text and it would not have adopted the language of Recital 66”.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • How unfortunate to see the MRS coming to the rescue of the online advertising and marketing industry. It's simply not true that cookies are needed to detect duplicate respondents or to ensure security, it's just that some companies have implemented solutions for those problems with cookies. Online research will do just fine without the indiscriminate use of cookies. What is true is that cookies are the life blood of online advertising and marketing, hardly an industry in need of MRS's protection.

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