There is a huge amount of uncertainty surrounding the European Commission’s ePrivacy Directive on cookies, with almost all businesses needing to know what the impact will be on their online marketing. We live in changing and, for many companies, uncertain times with revenues and profits at risk across the board. Online marketing and ecommerce is clearly a significant factor for business success and what the European Commission have decided to do is make waves regarding how it should be conducted. The European Commission set a deadline of May 25th, 2011 for EU member states to ‘notify’ their adherence to the directive. Since the deadline, a 12 month extension has been given in the UK. So, what does this mean for businesses in other member states and in the long-term?
The right to privacy for an individual is deeply important and the use of personal data must be regulated. The directive fails to do this, it just meddles with some of the key building blocks that underpin how businesses build customer relationships online. The directive has succeeded in being ambiguous and incendiary, and I feel will achieve very little for the following reasons:
- It attacks all types of tracking, from innocent site tracking through to complex re-targeted advertising.
- It requires local enforcement, ignoring the fact that users browse with little thought to the origin of the websites they view or where they are hosted.
- The concept of a cookie opt-out is important, however they fail to offer a route for marketers to take in order to conform with their rules.
Overall, I feel they have attempted to take an axe to the backbone of online business, without understanding how it or its users actually work. The implications of what this will mean for online business in the future has left many of us a little confused.
Once the European Commission has written the directive to their member states they must be notified of their acceptance and then attempt to enforce it. Notification to the European Commission was due by 25th May 2011. Here are some facts on just how many of the EU member states have notified the European Commission of their compliance:
This list was compiled from many disparate articles (including this one from The Register) as there currently appears to be no central resource should you wish to understand what the implications are in a given territory. If you know more and can update me then please get in contact.
The European Commission states that it will open ‘infringement procedures’ against member states that have not conformed to the directive. In addition they have said that partial acceptance/adoption ‘falls short’ of the European Commission’s expectations.
So where does this leave companies that are trying to communicate, market and sell online in the member states of the EU? Whilst it would be reckless to say that business should ignore the directive, Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries in the UK, wrote an open letter that basically declares business as normal until ‘technical solutions’ have been created.
I feel that this very clearly embodies the ‘pragmatic ‘approach intended by the UK authorities, which essentially boils down to: Keep calm and carry on.
As mentioned previously folks, please share your thoughts regarding the information in this post and provide updates where and when you see necessary.