THE EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE (ECJ) has ruled that pre-checked pre-checked cookie consent boxes are "illegal" and that users need to give "active consent".
As per the ruling, users' consent cannot be assumed or implied and websites must obtain specific and active consent from users before storing cookies on their device.
The ruling stems from a 2013 case, in which a consumer group accused online lottery website Planet49 of displaying a pre-checked consent box at its login page and using it as authorisation from users to store cookies on their machines.
The German Federation of Consumer Organisations (VZBW) said that Planet49 was checking the consent box on users' behalf, which was illegal as the permission didn't come as an explicit consent from users.
Moreover, consenting to cookies was not compulsory to participate in the competition.
The case was filed in the German Federal Court of Justice but was later transferred to the European Court of Justice, as the German Court wanted the ruling to be given in relation to European Union's laws on users' privacy.
The case lasted for about a year in the European court, which passed its final judgement on 1 October.
"The court decides that the consent which a website user must give to the storage of and access to cookies on his or her equipment is not validly constituted by way of a pre-checked checkbox which that user must deselect to refuse his or her consent," the court said in its order.
It also ruled that websites needed to fully inform users about how long the cookies would remain active on their systems, and if third parties would also access users' data.
The ruling is likely to spark a new debate on users' online privacy and the degree to which websites can be allowed to track their users. µ
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