MEPs need to watch the way the cookie crumbles

The Interactive Advertising Bureau has launched a campaign to persuade Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to drop legislation that would require Internet users to give their consent to each use of cookies – a move that the IAB says could cost the online advertising industry &£187m a year.

The controversy surrounds an amendment to the proposed Electronic Communications and Privacy Directive, now being considered by the European Parliament, which categorises cookies alongside “spyware”, to be prohibited unless the user gave consent for its deployment.

The problem is that cookies – small data files that websites leave on the user’s hard drive – are integral to many Internet businesses. IAB chairman and chief executive Danny Meadows-Klue says: “Cookies enable personalisation, and research and analysis. The majority of Web advertising today is generated by cookies. They are absolutely fundamental.”

Meadows-Klue says that if the amendment became law, and was enforced, it would be catastrophic for Internet businesses and users. He adds: “Web users will be bombarded by messages – many probably won’t even realise what’s going on. [They] will start switching cookies off, and a whole load of things on the Web won’t work.”

A survey by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising found that 75 per cent of online advertising relies on the use of cookies. The UK online advertising market is expected to be worth &£250m in 2001.

With the European Parliament expected to vote on the proposed Directive on November 15, the IAB has asked the MEP who tabled the amendment to withdraw it.

Internet users are already able to regulate the use of cookies through their browser, says Meadows-Klue.

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