April 17, 2011

UK Works Towards Tracking Regulations

The United Kingdom's government accepted European regulations on the use of web-tracking technology by businesses, but said it will not be enforced at the onset.

The regulations are expected to be passed by the UK Parliament in time for the EU deadline May 25. However, businesses will not be required to obey the new rules, at least for a while, according to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on Friday.

A DCMS spokesman told ZDNet UK that the technical solutions aren't currently ready. "We wouldn't expect the Information Commissioner's Office to take enforcement action while the work on the technical solutions is ongoing."

Changes to the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive would mean that businesses in the UK would need to gain consent to store or access cookies on users' computers. The rules are not law yet, but the government expects approval before the deadline.

The government has set up a party to examine how tech companies can build privacy settings into browsers, said the DCMS spokesman. A number of businesses, including Apple and Mozilla, are in the process of building "Ëœdo-not-track' options into their browsers. DCMS said cookie rules will not be enforced until that work is completed.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) plans to issue guidance on cookies after the regulations are published, according to an ICO spokeswoman on Friday.

A second working party has been established to "explore other options to complement the guidance," said the DCMS.

The government consulted on changes to the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, and published its opinion on Friday.

Part of the directive deals with e-commerce sites, which will not be expected to seek user consent before using cookies. Users visiting e-commerce sites will be assumed to have given consent for cookies to be placed on their machines simply through the act of visiting those sites.

The UK Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) and its European counterparts are also exploring the use of advertisements that have "an easily recognizable icon" so users can opt to refuse a cookie, or request more information about a product or service, DCMS said in its statement.


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