Cookie Law UK Enforcement Update

By: Richard Beaumont | Tuesday, September 11, 2012 | Tagged: Cookie Law | Leave Comment

There can be no doubt in anyone's mind that the Cookie Law is hugely unpopular in the digital media community.

Publishers, Advertisers, Designers and Developers have all got their own reasons for not liking the law.  And in the last few days the 'we hate the cookie law' and 'get rid of the cookie law' have had quite a lot of success in getting their message across.

This is largely thanks to the campaign site - which laid down an open challenge to the ICO to 'come and sue us' after stripping their site of any notice/consent solutions.

This got massive coverage and support on Twitter, to the point it was picked up by the BBC.  The ICO were goaded into a response on Twitter, which stirred up more reactionary commentary.

Now the ICO's Dave Evans - the man who lead their education programme throughout the roll-out of the law, has written a blog post about the current state of play.

The article re-iterates what their position has been all along.  Which is that, people may not like it but the law is here to stay and it is being enforced.  We already knew that the ICO had asked the UK's most popular websites to explain their compliance strategy back in May.

Dave's blog states that they have already taken further steps against a set of those companies who have ignored them and the law.  This includes setting a deadline for those sites to become compliant.

We have been told to expect more news in November - but it is clear that, despite what some people would like to believe, the ICO is going about their job of enforcement.  They are just doing it in a quiet, reasoned way.  Which is both sensible and practical, but does not make for good headlines.

What we are faced with here is a massive change management issue.  Change is always difficult, especially on this sort of scale.  There are powerful groups who are scared that they are going to lose out in this change, and naturally they are fighting against it tooth and nail.

The ICO is trying to find a way to smooth the change process as much as possible.  They have not always got it right, particularly with the change in guidance issued in May, just before the end of the grace period.  However their measured and calm-voiced approach is much more likely to succeed in the long term, than a more heavy-handed one would have been.

Getting heavy-handed is still an option though.  When the government's purse is empty, the opportunity for revenue raising by slapping even small fines on millions of website, must surely be tempting.

Of course, if they did do that, it could really result in a huge mess, with lots of opportunities for scammers (and we have seen there are some of those anyway) to make a quick profit, not to mention time-consuming legal challenges creating even more uncertainly. 

I am sure that people want that even less than the cookie law.  So perhaps a degree of calm right now is what is needed to avoid giving them a reason to re-think their tactics.

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