Judging by the number of calls and the intensity of the discussions about how to comply with the cookie consent requirement in a post-GDPR world, this issue has become a top worry for organisations and data protection officers. Partly due to the visibility of the mechanisms used to collect this consent, and partly due to the potential implications of operating a website without cookies, the dilemma around what solution to deploy has become a serious business decision. Different business stakeholders are often at odds with each other and matters are getting escalated to decision makers who had never been involved in the technically complex and largely misunderstood world of cookies. The tension is rising and yet, no approach has emerged as the preferred one among all involved. So everyone is getting anxious to find a way to do what they have always done and comply with the law. Is this panic justified?
“European data protection rules will become a trademark people recognise and trust worldwide”. That is how, in January 2012, Viviane Reding – then Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Justice Commissioner – ended her announcement of the widest reform of privacy and data protection law ever attempted. Six years later, this ambitious aim is becoming a reality. Organisations from around the world and well beyond Europe are grappling with the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and its impact on their data activities. From Australian banks and South American insurers to US universities and Asian telecoms companies, determining the applicability of the GDPR to their operations has become a critical business decision. As many global companies ponder over the right strategy to privacy compliance, a key question has emerged: which organisations, and under which circumstances, are subject to the territorial scope of the GDPR?
Following the European Commission and European Parliament’s proposed versions of the EU Regulation on Privacy and Electronic Communications, we are now waiting for the Council of the European Union to agree their position before discussions between the three bodies can begin. A discussion paper from the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council dated 11 January 2018 shows that the Council is still considering multiple options in relation to several critical issues.
Spain is well known for having one of the most restrictive data protection regimes in the European Union. It also counts with some of the highest penalties (fines are up to € 600,000 per infringement), and a data protection authority – the Spanish Data Protection Agency – with a reputation for being one of the fiercest of the EU. Moreover, the penalties envisaged are not only on paper; they are applied on a regular basis by the AEPD. For instance, in the past few years, it has imposed fines of € 450,000, € 900,000 and € 1,400,000.
On June 30, 2015, the French data protection authority, the CNIL, announced that it gave notice to 20 websites to comply with the consent requirements applicable to cookies. After patiently waiting for almost a year to give websites the opportunity to comply with the cookie notice and consent rules explained in its official guidance from December 2013, the CNIL launched a series of audits (27 online audits, 24 on-site audits and 2 hearings) in October 2014.
The French data protection authority has announced that following the “cookie sweep day” due to take place the week commencing 15 September 2014, it will launch a program of website audits in October to verify compliance with the CNIL’s 5 December 2013 cookie recommendations.
In a decision of 16 December, the French data protection authority (the “CNIL”) issued new recommendations with regards to the appropriate fashion in which businesses should implement the so-called “cookie consent law”.
On 14 October, the Article 29 Working Party of EU data protection commissioners published a Working Document providing guidance on obtaining consent for cookies, some eighteen months after the effective date of the so-called “cookie consent law” which required EU websites to obtain consent from Internet users before before placing cookies on their devices. The document analyses, to some extent, the practices more commonly used by website operators to obtain the required consent, and attempts to answer the question as to what measures would “be legally compliant for a website operating across all EU Member States.”
On August 3, at the ABA Annual Meeting, the ABA Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice held a panel moderated by Hogan Lovells privacy leader Chris Wolf entitled “Privacy Law in 2012: Where We Are and Where We Are Going.” The article below, reprinted with permission from ABA Now, describes thoughts of the panelists on the future of privacy in the US and in Europe.
For over a year companies have been trying to determine how to achieve compliance with the UK Information Commissioner’s Office’s (ICO) amended Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (the “cookies law”), which implemented 2009 amendments to the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive of 2002. Last week, the ICO made it clear that reliance on implied consent would be an acceptable form of consent.
On April 2, after almost a year of delay, Spain published Royal Decree-Law 13/2012 requiring opt-in consent to place cookies as required by the EU e-Privacy Directive (2009/136/EC, modifying Directive 2002/58/EC).
In an opinion adopted on December 8, the EU Article 29 Working Party again rebuffed the Online Behavioral Advertising industry’s self-regulatory proposal, continuing to hold firm that European law requires affirmative, opt-in consent prior to the placement of any cookie for tracking purposes. The Working Party broke down the OBA industry proposal, and then–in a rebuttal of the industry’s contention that the opinion will result in the proliferation of dreaded browser pop-up windows–offered up a number of methods of obtaining consent not involving pop-ups.
The Federal Trade Commission yesterday announced settlements with two online companies for deceptively collecting personal information from consumers, including its first enforcement action against the use of “Flash cookies” and an enforcement action against a social network that collected children’s information without parental consent. As a result, businesses whose websites (or vendors) utilize Flash cookies, HTML5, or ETags to track user browsing should reexamine their privacy disclosures.
On August 26, 2011 France implemented new EU provisions on data breach notifications for electronic communications providers, as well as new provisions requiring prior consent for cookies. The French measure also gives the government power to order security audits for electronic communications providers.
Hogan Lovells privacy lawyers from five European jurisdictions have published an overview of privacy rules applicable to Internet cookies in Europe . The new rules, which flow from a recent amendment to the European E-Privacy Directive, are not yet settled in all European Member States. This overview provides practical guidance on how to comply with the new prior consent rules that will apply in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Few topics in the world of EU data protection have generated so much debate, and so little understanding, as the change to the law on cookies. On 9 May the UK Information Commissioner issued some guidance on the new law, but anyone expecting clear instructions on how to achieve compliance will be very disappointed.