THE UK GOVERNMENT has revealed that European Union regulations regarding Internet tracking cookies will include penalties of up to £500,000 and new powers for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
The rules are part of an e-privacy directive that requires websites to get consent from users before installing cookies, small files that store user preferences and can be used to track people's web browsing habits.
A number of major companies have already agreed to implement the EU rules, including Google, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and Yell.
The European Advertising Standards Alliance has also developed a code of practice to support the directive, where companies will add a small button to ads that allow users to block tracking by specific companies.
The new penalty for companies not complying with the upcoming law will be up to a whopping half million pounds. The previous maximum fine was £5,000, making the change a 100-fold increase.
The fine can be levied on any company found guilty of breaching the cookie regulations, sending spam emails or texts and cold calling, according to the Financial Times.
The ICO will also be given new powers to investigate and audit companies to ensure they are complying with the tracking rules. The ICO said it will reveal how it will enforce these powers over the next month or so.
UK Communications Minister Ed Vaizey said he does not expect the ICO to enforce the rules in the short term, given the complexities involved.
The new rules will come into force on 25 May. µ
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