The European Union Directive on cookies was adopted in 2011 by most EU countries. The idea of the so-called “e-Privacy Directive” was to protect the privacy of internet surfers.
As a result of the cookie law, websites were required to get permission from visitors — usually through a popup question — before placing cookies onto their computers.
Cookies are like a mini-program which is quickly installed on your computer through your browser which records which websites you visit and other web-related activity. This data is then used in marketing and advertising campaigns, for example.
Given that it sought to protect the privacy of people who surf the web, the cookie law was generally seen as a good thing. But many companies have begun to question the EU cookie law, and have formed an industry group to communicate their reservations.
In the latest development, a “joint industry statement” has been issued, which says: “The tech and telecom industries call for the e-Privacy Directive to be repealed.
“We believe that simplifying and streamlining regulation will benefit consumers by ensuring they are provided with a simple, consistent and meaningful set of rules designed to protect their personal data.”
The statement, which appears on the website of the communications industry association GSMA, adds that reform of the cookie law “will encourage innovation across the digital value chain and drive new growth and social opportunities”, which the group says “is critical at a time when digital companies are striving to launch new innovative services and working to build a 5G Europe”.
The statement is backed by a whole range of companies, including Apple, Amazon, BT, Blackberry, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, Fastnet, Foursquare, Google, Huawei, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Netflix, Orange, Paypal, T-Mobile, TalkTalk, Telefonica, Three, and Vodafone.
The industry group says it would prefer the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) over the ePrivacy Directive.
While that EU versus the tech industry debate goes on, the added complication for those in the UK is that its recent decision to leave the EU — or Brexit — could mean it will not be an issue at all.
By exiting the EU, the UK could in theory avoid having to conform to any of the directives of the EU. But that would probably only be true if the UK opts out of all EU laws — cookie laws included.
However, if the UK decides to enter the EU single market, it would probably still have to retain the cookie law. But that’s if the industry group does not manage to get the law changed.