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Could G7 meeting reshape cookie banners?

Posted on September 8, 2021

 

At yesterday’s virtual G7 meeting, each member country was expected to raise a tech-related issue it believed the group could combat. UK information commissioner Elizabeth Denham called for a change to cookie consent forms on websites.

Pop-up banners related to cookies and other privacy settings have become especially prevalent on sites since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) officially came into force in May 2018, and they give website visitors the opportunity to adjust their settings and opt out of data collection designed to personalise their experience.

However, Denham argues that this is counterproductive and is leading to “fatigue” among internet users. With these banners being so ubiquitous and there being little in the way of consistency between one website’s pop-ups and the next, she believes people are handing over more personal data than they really wish to.

Incidentally, the UK’s G7 Summit website appears to be leading by example by offering a clear and instant choice to “Accept all cookies” or “Reject optional cookies”, as well as an option for the visitor to set their own cookie preferences. Other websites present users with an option to either accept cookies (which many will do automatically) or go through a process of managing their preferences and opting out of each individual section.

Denham has suggested that users’ cookie preferences could be set in their browser or even on their device, rather than them having to accept or reject cookies every time they visit a website. The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) believes the technology to do this is already there but it would require the co-operation of tech giants and international standards organisations, hence it being raised in this meeting among privacy regulators in seven of the world’s most economically powerful nations.

Such a change would also mean that webmasters would have to find way to automatic detect users’ privacy settings and tailor their cookies to them upon their first visit. The idea of not having to come up with a cookie banner may be appealing to them, although these can actually be a useful way for site owners to keep track of the information they are collecting.

Denham accepts that any changes to current legislation are likely to take some time, and that businesses are expected to “comply with current laws” in the meantime, which means continuing to allow users to opt out of cookies. We’ve written before about why cookie policies are important on websites, as well as how to add one, but if you need any further assistance on cookies and GDPR compliance, please speak to us at Engage Web.

John Murray
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