NEWS23 June 2009

Cookie threat delayed as EU talks continue

Europe Government Privacy

BELGIUM— Marketers have won a temporary reprieve from European Union rule changes that would force them to get express consent before dropping a cookie on a persons’ computer.

Such a requirement would greatly disrupt the online marketing industry, which relies on cookies to track consumer behaviour on sites and to measure the effectiveness of online ad campaigns.

The proposed restrictions on cookie use forms part of the EU’s Telecoms Package – a set of directives which will regulate certain aspects of online privacy and data protection, among other things.

But according to ISBA, the British advertisers’ body, EU ministers of telecommunications have postponed a formal decision on the package and will instead continue internal discussions until the next Council of Ministers meeting in October 2009.

In a last-minute vote before the European elections earlier this month, the European Parliament had adopted a report on the Telecoms Package that was at odds with a previously negotiated compromise with the Council of Ministers.

ISBA’s director of public affairs Ian Twinn said the impact of that vote could have “very serious consequences for all marketers”.

Welcoming the postponement, he said: “We must hope that the Council of Ministers will reopen this question with the new intake of MEPs and reach a solution that does not set Europe up as a roadblock in the path of the development of online business.”

News of the postponement also came as a relief to Andrew Girdwood, head of search for digital agency Bigmouthmedia, who sounded the alarm on the proposals earlier this month.

Girdwood said: “The postponement was necessary and I’m glad it happened. The EU and advertisers are weighing issues which may seem simple but are actually complex. All parties need more time to consider the proposals.”