Should Governments Mandate Cookie Transparency?
from the is-that-needed? dept
The BBC is reporting on the EU’s e-privacy directive that’s set to go into effect towards the end of May, which will apparently require that sites using cookies get explicit consent from users before using certain forms of cookies. As some have noted, the BBC’s version of this is a bit one-sided, and the details aren’t quite as bad as the original report makes it out to be — but that doesn’t mean they’re good, either. Basically, this new directive will mean various EU countries have to pass laws relating to transparency around cookies, and those laws could push sites to have to ask before placing tracking cookies. It appears this is mostly limited to cookies that also track info off-site — so mainly advertising cookies, rather than login or shopping cookies (which likely wouldn’t be impacted).
Still, even once you understand the details, I have to question why this is necessary. Asking people to opt-in to any cookies just creates a massive nuisance for everyone. While the supporters of such rules believe that this increases knowledge and transparency, there’s little evidence that this is the case. Instead, as some earlier studies have suggested, it seems to just increase the nuisance factor. People who are regularly presented with a popup asking them for permission to proceed just get into the habit of clicking to make the box go away, rather than understanding what they’re clicking. That’s because when they go to visit a site, they don’t care about the cookies and don’t want to be interrupted.
I’m sure the politicians supporting this move think they’re doing something good, but it really does the exact opposite of what they really want. It won’t make people care any more about their privacy. It’ll just make them more annoyed about the overall process. The way to make people more concerned about their privacy is to educate them and make it their choice in how they deal with these things. There are already plenty of easy-to-use tools on the market for users to set up preferences via browser extensions. Mandating rules for websites is just going to cause a hassle for everyone else.