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The European Parliament has accepted a proposal that would make it unlawful to place cookies on a user's PC without their permission.

MEPs yesterday voted in favour of the cookie-crumbling amendment to a draft directive about the processing of personal data and privacy on the Net.

The move is likely to prove controversial because many firms rely on cookies to determine the operation of their sites, track the behaviour of users and make sites easier to use. The Interactive Advertising Bureau, which represents UK Internet marketers, has vowed to lobby MEPs to get the proposal dropped before the directive comes back to the European Parliament for its second reading.

The directive also deals with the vexed question of how to control unsolicited commercial email, better known as spam.

After months of debate, MEPs have voted in favour (299 to 219 votes) of the "national choice" amendment which gives member states the right to choose between opt-out or opt-in for email marketing messages.

An opt-in regime (where a senders has to first get permission to send messages from a recipient) has been proposed for SMS messages, with opt-out applying only if the customer is already a client of the company which sends them.

Anti-spam campaigners wanted a firm directive insisting on opt-in whereas internet marketers tend to favour an opt-out regime, so neither is likely to be pleased with the compromise. ®

External links

Second report
on the proposal for a European Parliament and Council directive concerning the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector

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