Views from the UK Information Commissioner

By: Richard Beaumont | Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Tagged: ICO | Leave Comment

I attended a seminar in Whitehall this morning on the subject of digital marketing.  It was organised under the banner of the Westminster eForum - a platform aiming to provide opportunities for government bodies and policy makers to engage with private industry and other stakeholders.

Although it covered a range of topics the subject of cookies inevitably kept coming up.  Towards the end of the session Christopher Graham, the UK Informaton Commissioner and the man whose office is responsible for enforcing the UK cookie law took to the stand.

He gave quite an entertaining as well as useful talk where he spelled out some of the principles by which the ICO will assess complaints about cookie law breaches.

This includes some obvious things like: have users been given an opportunity to give their consent; and is personal data likely to get into the hands of organisations that the user could not have known?

More is promised about this from the ICO and when it is published we will of course be commenting on it.  However, what was more interesting were some of the other comments he made.

Much has been made in recent months by the digital advertising industry of the little blue icon that is appearing in behavioural adverts and gives access to more information and tools to enable users to opt-out of data gathering for such adverts.

Yet Graham in his talk clearly stated that this solution was "not sufficient to comply with the law".

In other words - if your website carries such advertising, that little blue icon will not protect you from complaints.  Which I think clears up that debate rather nicely.

He was also happy to make it clear that he does not intend to allow the cookie law to become the toothless piece of legislation that many people seem to be banking on.

"I will use the powers I have" and "I have the resources to enforce this legislation", were two statements that rang out clear across the room.

Or in other words 'I am lion, hear me roar'.  Those who are hoping for the squeak of a mouse in May next year could do well do invest in some ear plugs, or make sure their website is compliant.

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