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Office of EC veep jumps gun on net privacy law

No statement on withdrawn statement

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The office of the vice-president of the European Commission has withdrawn a rather extensive statement on cookies and the EU Data Protection Directive sent out last week "without authorisation".

Out-Law.com, the legal news site, had written a story last week using the statement from Viviane Reding, where she said that companies needed prior consent to use individual's data, a contradiction of the UK government's stance that consent could be given after or during processing of the data.

The story has now been taken down and replaced with the following:

A story previously published here was based on a statement of EU Commissioner Viviane Reding's views on cookies and the EU Data Protection Directive.

We have been informed that the statement does not represent the Commissioner's views and was sent without being authorised so we have removed the story.

The confused staff at The Reg asked the VP's office what had happened, but were told it had no further statement on the statement.

Spokesman Matthew Newman did add, however, that "the reform of the Data Protection Directive is ongoing and our proposals should be released in the next 20 weeks".

The bone of contention is in the interpretation of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive, or e-Privacy Directive – a continuation of the Data Protection Directive – which says that firms can only store and use the information on computers "on condition that the subscriber or user concerned is provided with clear and comprehensive information... about the purposes of the processing, and is offered the right to refuse such processing by the data controller", with one exception:

This shall not prevent any technical storage or access for the sole purpose of carrying out or facilitating the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network, or as strictly necessary in order to provide an information society service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user.

When cookies are used as a way to take you from one part of a site to another, eg, from a product page to checkout, this is seen by some as included in this exception.

It is hoped that the reform of the directive, expected in the next six months, will clarify issues around consent. ®

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