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UK.gov signals weary welcome to Brussels' web cookies law

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A European Union directive on web cookies that comes into force next month was today endorsed by the UK government, with some caveats attached.

Communications minister Ed Vaizey said the UK.gov had no plans to "gold-plate" the EU regulations by bringing in additional measures.

However, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has concerns about what it described as "a one size fits all solution".

The department said a second working group would be formed so the government could speak with industry players about how they can complement delayed guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office.

As The Register has previously reported, the UK government will not have its regulatory house in order by 25 May when a new EU law on cookies comes into force, because the ICO's guidance won't be published by that date.

Under the European Privacy and Electronic Communications directive, UK-based businesses and other organisations running websites that track their users' cookies will be required by law to obtain "explicit consent" from visitors to their sites.

But because the ICO has failed to divvy up guidelines, no "enforcement action" will be taken by the regulator in the short term against businesses or organisations that fail to adhere to the new EU directive.

"The government recognises the internet would be severely restricted without cookies and concerns were raised during the consultation that changes to the use of cookies could have serious impacts on the web," said the DCMS today.

"To address these concerns the government will work with browser manufacturers to see if browser settings can be enhanced to meet the requirements of the revised directive.

"Enhanced settings would present users with easily understandable choices on importing cookies on to their machine."

Additionally, UK.gov threw its weight behind "cross-industry work on third party cookies in behavioural advertising".

Just yesterday, the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) issued guidelines on web-tracking software used by advertisers.

It said the self-regulatory framework backed by the likes of Microsoft, Google and Yahoo! "outlines good practice aimed at enhancing transparency and consumer control". The IAB added that an icon would appear in or around display adverts to give netizens the option to stop advertisers from tracking their moves online.

However, it only covers the "activities of website operators that are limited to their own sites or sites controlled by them and "contextual advertising, which is advertising based on the content of the web page being visited, a consumer’s current visit to a web page, or a search query."

In other words, the framework doesn't cover all online advertising. ®

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