In May 2011 Brussels added amendments to the EU E-Privacy Directive stating that websites be required to gain consent from online users before installing tracking technologies such as cookies on their web browsers. Cookies are a vital part of tracking online advertising campaigns such as Google AdWords and Google Remarketing.
Though these regulations were passed in the UK last May, a one-year grace period was granted to allow businesses and organisations to implement the necessary changes to their websites. A recent KPMG study estimated that 95% of UK businesses have yet to comply with the new legislation, which is surprising considering the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), has the power to exact a fine up to £500,000 on websites found to be in violation.
Thankfully for this 95%, on Thursday 24th May 2012 – just 48 hours before the regulations were due to come into force – the UK’s Information Commissioner watered down the legislation to include “implied consent”. This essentially means that Internet users will now need to actively opt out as opposed to being automatically opted out of allowing cookies when they visit websites. This change shifts responsibility from the website operator to the user and will dramatically decrease the number of users opting out of allowing cookies.
Does this have any impact on Australian website operators? While the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is looking into similar regulation changes regarding cookies, this is a process has been ongoing since 2008. The OAIC are expected to review the results and implications of changes in regulations in the EU before any significant progress is made here, so Australian businesses running Pay-per-Click and other online campaigns that depend on tracking can rest easy for now.