Ed Vaizey says Cookie Directive is meaningless

Today’s advice from DCMS shows that the UK has no intention of implementing any form of meaningful consent for tracking from advertising companies.

Today, more or less every Internet user is spied on by advertising companies, who use cookies to see what sites you visit, create a profile about your interests and then serve adverts to reflect these interests.

Cookies weren’t meant to be used like this. They were designed to help a website know if you’d logged in, or placed items in a shopping basket, by tracking who you were. Unfortunately this tracking has been extended to profile your movements around commercial sites purely to help advertisers.

Because profiling people’s interests without consent is morally reprehensible, and an attack on our fundamental right to privacy, the EU chose to legislate to require consent. The new “Cookie” Directive however, omitted the word “prior” from the definition of consent. Advertisers – and now the UK government – are arguing that “browser settings may give consumers a way to indicate their consent to cookies.”

However, Ed Vaizey states:

in its natural usage ‘consent’ rarely refers to a permission given after the action for which consent is being sought has been taken. This absolutely does not preclude a regulatory approach that recognises that in certain circumstances it is impracticable to obtain consent prior to processing.

That is, basically, forget it. Consent is impractical, so is implied by your browser settings when you permit cookies, so you’ve agreed to be profiled.

For the record, I haven’t agreed to be profiled. Have you?