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Monday, Oct 18, 2021

UK to urge G7 to adopt new method to tackle pop-up cookie nuisance

UK to urge G7 to adopt new method to tackle pop-up cookie nuisance

The government has cited tackling cookie requests as an example of the reforms to the UK's data protection regime that it plans to introduce in the future.

Data protection authorities across the G7 are to be urged to tackle nuisance cookie consent pop-ups, which critics say are not fit for purpose.

Proposals on improving the ways that web users consent to cookies will be discussed in a series of virtual meetings to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The government has cited tackling cookie requests as an example of the reforms to the UK's data protection regime that it plans to introduce in the future.

What is a web cookie?


A cookie is a bit of information stored by your browser that is shared with the websites you visit without being changed.

The technology is used by online retailers to remember what items you want to purchase when you visit the check-out, as well as to store your username and passwords.

Cookies are designed to be unique to your browser, but this means that some websites can use special tracking cookies to follow you around the web.

These cookies are often used by third party advertisers who, by building up data on the sites you visit and the shopping that you're interested in, can target advertisements at you.

Cookie consent forms are designed to allow web users to permit or deny these tracking cookies to be saved by their browsers, but the nuisance pop-up design forces many people to click "I Agree" without meaningfully consenting.

The meetings will be chaired by Elizabeth Denham, the UK's current Information Commissioner, who is due to leave her role this year.

But her position has been met with criticism, with Open Rights Group among the organisations who claim that Ms Denham's plea to the G7 stands in contrast to how she has fulfilled her role as regulator.

"The simple fact is that most cookie banners are unlawful, and the data collection behind them is, as her own report states, also unlawful," said Jim Killock.

"If the ICO wants to sort out cookie banners then it should follow its own conclusions and enforce the law.

"We have waited for over two years now for the ICO to deal with this, and now they are asking the G7 to do their job for them. That is simply outrageous.

"We fully support their call for automated signals, but meantime they should enforce the law, which is their job," he added.

Each of the G7 authorities will make a presentation during the meetings on an issue which they believe requires international cooperation.

According to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) many people automatically select "I Agree" when presented with cookie pop-ups, leaving them with no meaningful control over their personal data.

Ms Denham is to propose a new system "where web browsers, software applications and device settings 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".

"This would ensure people's privacy preferences are respected and the use of personal data is minimised, while improving users' browsing experience and removing friction for businesses," her office explained.

"While this approach is already technologically possible and compliant with data protection law, the ICO believes the G7 authorities could have a major impact in encouraging technology firms and standards organisations to further develop and roll out privacy-oriented solutions to this issue."

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