SHOPPER STALKING ONLINE FIRMS in the UK have been given guidance on how to use tracking cookies.
The guidance, which is actually just advice for now, comes from the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) (PDF) and precedes the UK adoption of Euro tracking rules that will come into force on 26 May.
The advice is do not use tracking cookies without user permission, which is great news for consumers and privacy advocates, but bad news for companies that like to know what people are doing, where they have been, what they have bought and who they know.
"You will need a user's consent if you want to store a cookie on their device. The ICO recognises that cookies perform a number of legitimate functions. We also recognise that gaining consent will, in many cases, be a challenge," wrote the ICO in its report.
"Complying with the new rules will allow you to be confident that your users have a better and clearer understanding of what you do and how you do it."
Under the old rules firms and web site operators would only have to tell users that they were using cookies and offer them the right to opt out if they wanted to. We assume that this only needed to be hidden away in the darkest corners of their web pages to escape most users' notice.
Sure, it might slow down the web browsing experience, and doubtless it will cause some problems at web sites, but surely it will make staying on top of user privacy easier, for which it should be applauded.
Regardless, the ICO added, "The key point is that you cannot ignore these rules." µ
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