BUSINESS

Europe’s Hand Being Forced Out of Cookie Jar

TAGs: Conrad Bennett, information commissioners office, Internet Privacy, KPMG, web browser cookie

UK Preps Up A New Web Browser Cookie LegislationOn May 26 a new piece of legislation will be introduced which stands to have a huge impact on the European iGaming industry. The legislation in question is the Privacy and Communications Directive which will require users to provide their permission to any website that they visit to drop or track cookies.

Failure to comply with this new directive will result in fines of up to £500,000. This figure will appear astounding to many given that the maximum fine for drunk-driving is just 1% of that amount in the UK– and dropping cookies certainly has certainly never killed anyone!

The reason for this new directive and the severity of the penalties allowed by it is the increasing concerns of internet users that they’re being spied on.The reaction of many casual internet users when they’re made aware of cookie tracking is near outrage. They appear to be of the opinion that websites which do drop cookies are combining forces to plot general evil against their unwitting users.What they don’t understand is that the use of cookies simply makes their online internet experiences much easier. Google, for example, is able to provide users with adverts that might be of interest as well as saving personal preferences to provide more helpful search results.

Many average internet users aren’t aware that identifying information is seldom stored on a user as a result of cookies. As a general rule they have little interest in the person themselves, simply their behaviour on the internet. The doors that are opened by cookie tracking are almost uncountable and closing this door will cause many e-commerce companies to take a step backwards. Of course the new directive isn’t stopping cookie dropping outright, it’s just ensuring that users must consent to cookies being dropped. However the likelihood of users allowing cookies to be dropped due to the common belief described above means that many will not.

Not only will this render some iGaming technologies to be useless but more importantly it will make the roles of affiliates much tougher. Sites that rely heavily on targeted ad networks such as AdSense for their income will be in even bigger trouble as the targeting will be much less specific meaning that click through rates will drop drastically. Mechanisms which have been nicknamed ‘Do Not Track’ are having the fine touches put to them by browser-creators currently meaning that unfortunately, these scenes are going to come to fruition.

Being Prepared for New Cookie Laws 

If as a webmaster, affiliate or even operator you’re reading about this for the first time or didn’t realise that the date of enforcement was quite so close then you may find yourself panicking about your lack of planned changes. If this is the case then don’t fret as you’re not alone. UK analysts KPMG looked at the websites of more than 55 UK organisations and found that 95% of them were not compliant with the laws that are due to be introduced next month.

Speaking about their findings Stephen Bonner, a partner at KPMG said: “With less than 50 days to go before enforcement our analysis has found that the majority of UK organisations still need to complete substantial work to their websites. “Whilst the majority of the websites we analysed made a reference to the use of cookies under either the terms and conditions or specific privacy policies, this is not enough to ensure compliance with the directive.”

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), who was put in charge by the government of regulating the new rules in the UK, they claim that users must ‘knowingly indicate their acceptance’. Online shopping baskets are likely to be deemed exempt by the ICO but any cookies being used for analytical purposes or first and third party advertising will not.

So what is there that iGaming sites can do in order to comply with the new law? Well Conrad Bennett of Webtrends explains that action should be taken soon.

He says: “Our advice is to, firstly, conduct a cookie audit of your website. Remove any cookies that are no longer required”.

“Secondly, update your privacy policy and include a cookie policy. This new policy should detail all cookies that you place. Finally, plan what approach you’re going to take to comply with the EU Directive in getting users to opt-in to accepting cookies.”

Some claim that in practice the new directive will only mean that websites have to more specific in their privacy policy about what cookies are being used for on the site. Whether or not this will be the case remains to be seen but with a £500,000 penalty potentially on offer anyone who takes a risk with the new cookie law could end up seriously regretting it.

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