E.U. “Cookie Law” changed at 11th Hour: Wolves to be protected from sheep.

9 Jun

BBC Radio 4 News ran an excellent interview on Friday 8th June with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).The BBC has been quick to monitor business response to the EU “Cookie Law”.

The interview with the ICO’s spokesman was an attempt to discover whether the newly-implemented “Cookie Law” was being obeyed. The Cookie Law demanded that websites seek explicit consent from visitors to their site before that site is allowed to store tracking data about that user. When you consider how many ways cookie data can be stored and used against the interests of the consumer, this is not an unreasonable idea.

But very recently, just prior to the implementation of the law on 26th May 2012, the ICO suddenly added a clause to allow websites to exempt themselves from the law (and the need to ask permission) if something called “implied consent” was given by the visitor. The definition of “implied consent” appears to be that the person continues to use the website.

This is a bit like introducing a seat belt law that says: “Passengers in a car must wear their seat belt or face legal action…with the exception of those passengers who persistently do not wear their seat belt.”

Roadwax dispatched a top reporter to cover the BBC Radio interview. By sitting really close to the radio and turning the volume up, the following information was overheard:

BBC Interviewer: “Has the ICO been monitoring websites to ensure compliance with the new Cookie Law?

Man from ICO: “websites…? You mean internet websites…?”

BBC Interviewer: “Yes. Have you checked to make sure that businesses with websites are complying with the new law?”

Man from ICO: “Do you mean websites run by businesses…?”

BBC Interviewer: “Yes.”

Man from ICO: “Well…I should imagine that they have…I mean, these business people are jolly good sorts, mostly.”

BBC Interviewer: “Have you monitored the situation – yes or no?”

Man from ICO: “Well…it is still very early days. I mean, you can’t rush these things. It is all terribly complicated.”

BBC Interviewer: “So, you haven’t actually done anything to monitor the situation.”

Man from ICO: “Oh, well, I wouldn’t say that exactly. I mean, we sent someone down the shop to buy a pen…”

BBC Interviewer: “A pen…? How does that constitute monitoring for compliance…?”

Man from ICO: “Well…it pays to write things down, you know. We thought buying a pen might be a good start.”

BBC Interviewer: “Well, we at the BBC have been monitoring the situation.”

Man from ICO: “Gosh…! How frightfully clever! How did you do that?”

BBC Interviewer: “We contacted businesses and asked them whether they were complying.”

Man from ICO: “Yikes..! That all sounds thoroughly like a Sherlock Holmes story. How exciting!”

BBC Interviewer: “We discovered that a lot of businesses have not complied.”

Man from ICO: “No…! Really..? Gosh…! Well, bless my Aunt Betty. Really…?”

…and so it went on…and on…and on…

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