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New EU Cookie Laws – Protecting People’s Privacy?

From its initial conception to the day of implementation, the new EU e-Privacy Directive or “Cookie Law” has been subject to criticism, complaint and even ridicule. Rarely a month goes by in the UK where we don’t hear about how some sort of EU intervention is in fact undemocratic and a dilution of national sovereignty. But now people have to give consent for cookies to be stored on their computer, surely we’re offering people choice and that’s what a developed free market democracy is all about.

But will these laws actually have any real benefit? We’ve always had the option of turning cookies off in our browsers. The difference now is that the option is prominent and the law is behind it. Many blog editors and industry experts believe this to be a lesson in awareness for internet users as people now have to know more about the inner workings of their browsing session in order to make a conscious choice about their privacy.

A key issue in all this is the implementation and administration surrounding the enforcement of this law. Many businesses won’t take the legislation seriously simply because there’s such a low risk of being prosecuted according to public opinion.

A law is only effective if it can be enforced and there are going to be huge problems taking action against organisations that fail to comply. It’s worth considering that this could go the way that the Community Charge (“Poll Tax”) introduced by Margret Thatcher went in 1990. There was an overwhelming level of non-payment despite this being a criminal offence. Police forces even considered refusing to execute warrants for non-payers which meant prosecution became impractical. The community charge was abolished 2 years later.

With this in mind, it could be said that by educating internet users, we could give people the knowledge to either keep cookies turned on or change a simple setting in their browser. With minimal cooperation from the major browsers we could see a short tutorial-type guide that introduces people to cookies and their uses upon installation of the browser or a similar system. Of course this idea wouldn’t be infallible but it’s not like cookies represent the Gestapo of the internet.

Let’s see how this goes and marvel at the wonderful techniques companies use to implement this new law seamlessly into their sites. We’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on developments.

Qasim Majid About the author
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