UK's Top Websites Face Fines Over Cookie Transparency

The Information Commissioner's Office has stressed the importance of making it easy to "reject all" advertising cookies, as it is to "accept all." Cookie regulations are currently governed by the GDPR and PECR.
14 December 2023
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UK's Information Commissioner has issued a warning to major websites that they must make it easier for users to reject cookies or face fines.

Cookies are files that websites store on your computer to facilitate collection of data, personalisation of ads, and monitoring of browsing.

Despite the requirement to offer "fair choices" about their use, some sites are not complying with the law. The watchdog has given them a deadline of 30 days to fix their practices.

Cookie use ranges from functional to invasive. While vital for website advertising revenue, they can be used to track and target users with related ads. Users' activities, location, device, and subsequent online behaviour can all be recorded.

Many websites rely on advertising revenue, but these targeted ads can feel intrusive to users. The use of cookie pop-ups is meant to give users control, but they are often unclear. For example, closing the pop-up without making a selection can automatically opt users in or out depending on the website.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has previously stated that organisations must make it as easy to reject all advertising cookies as it is to accept them.

Current cookie regulations are split between the UK versions of the EU GDPR and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations or PECR. The latter, also known as the "cookie law," led to the introduction of cookie consent pop-ups.

However, new UK legislation aims to reduce the number of pop-ups by allowing websites to collect certain types of information without consent, raising concerns among digital privacy groups.

Stephen Almond, executive director of regulatory risk at the ICO, expressed concerns about companies using personal information without consent. The watchdog is urging companies to make the necessary changes now or face consequences. This action is part of a broader effort to protect people's rights in the online advertising industry.

- CyberBeat


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