EC threat to behavioural targeting worries affiliates

News that the European Commission may revisit the 2002 Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (Data Strategy, April 2009) has raised concerns among affiliate networks and digital marketers. In particular, they are worried about the possible needto gain express consent to place a cookie onto a web browser, rather than the implied consent used now.

“This is a proposal that would strike at the very heart of what the digital economy is all about,” says Andrew Girdwood, head of search at bigmouthmedia. “The ability to measure, track and improve the site experience for visitors is key to the success of e-commerce and, given the potentially damaging effect this could have, it suggests legislators don’t quite appreciate the havoc they could cause.”

He notes that major online brands such as Amazon and Google could be affected. For affiliate marketing, the impacts would be significant since they rely on tracking sales from referrals via the use of cookies in order to claim commissions. Pay-per-click advertising could also come to a standstill.

“This isn’t really a privacy issue. We support attempts to raise awareness of privacy issues and provide internet users with more control, but believe these functions would be better provided by the browser than the website,” says Girdwood.

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