Cookie pop-ups rules likely to be updated

17th September 2021cookies

How often do you just click ‘accept’ when you get the banner asking if you are ok with the cookies a website will use to collect your data?

Do you ever ‘find out more’ or toggle the preferences to choose which ones you are happy for them to serve you?

The fact is that not many people do.  Most of us just click ‘ok’ or ‘accept’ and just want to get on with our browsing experience.  The cookie pop-up becomes just a frustrating gateway to a website rather than a serious device to protect your data privacy.

The British Government has recognised this, and they have announced their intention to overhaul these rules – partly one suspects, to help seek data partnerships across the globe.

The ICO is calling on G7 data protection and privacy authorities to work together to overhaul cookie consent pop-ups. This means that the user’s privacy is “more meaningfully protected” and helps businesses offer “a better web browsing experience.”

 Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham met with her counterparts in the G7 (Group of Seven) nations recently to present how to improve the current cookie consent mechanism.

The majority of people and businesses dislike the cookie pop-ups and see them as an annoying obstacle; individuals automatically select ‘I agree’ when they see the cookie pop-up on web pages, which means they don’t have meaningful control over their personal data.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said:

“I often hear people say they are tired of having to engage with so many cookie pop-ups. That fatigue is leading to people giving more personal data than they would like.

The cookie mechanism is also far from ideal for businesses and other organisations running websites, as it is costly and can lead to poor user experience. While I expect businesses to comply with current laws, my office is encouraging international collaboration to bring practical solutions in this area.

There are nearly two billion websites out there taking account of the world’s privacy preferences. No single country can tackle this issue alone. That is why I am calling on my G7 colleagues to use our convening power. Together we can engage with technology firms and standards organisations to develop a coordinated approach to this challenge.”

The ICO said it would pitch a ‘vision for the future”. This entails that web browsers and software applications will ‘allow people to set lasting privacy preferences of their choosing, rather than having to do that through pop-ups every time they visit a website.’ They believe that this approach is already possible from a technology point of view and is compliant with data protection laws. However, this does require encouraging technology firms or standards organisations to co-operate with them and help further develop technology solutions to privacy issues.

Denham explained:

“The digital world brings international opportunities and challenges, but these are currently being addressed by a series of domestic solutions. We need to consider how the work of governments and regulators can be better knitted together to keep people’s trust in data-driven innovation.”

Throughout the meeting on 7-8 September, each G7 authority presented either an innovation issue or a specific technology where they believed cooperation is needed. The participants are data protection and privacy authorities from France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan, UK, the US Federal Trade Commission, the OECD, and lastly, the World Economic Forum.

Since December 2020, when the UK became the first member country to leave the EU, the UK has been looking for new ways to work with data protection colleagues globally because their membership in the European Data Protection Board has been terminated.

If the outcome is a coordinated solution, it will take a long time to be rolled out and enforced as any new internet standards usually have a long formal process.

The other thing to watch out for here is how far the UK is digressing from European Law and how that will affect our Adequacy Decision regarding the seamless transfer of data between the UK and Europe.  We will keep our eye on the situation and, of course, update you through these pages and via our regular email bulletins.

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