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“Do Not Track” standards are not going far enough to help with cookie consent

In a recent Speech, Neelie Kroes, who is responsible for the European Union’s Digital Agenda, explained that the “Do Not Track” standard, as it currently stood, would not help cookie compliance.


Kroes warned that while ‘it is not hard to see how DNT (do not track) can help with cookie consent’… ‘standardisation work is not going to plan. In fact, I am increasingly concerned. About the delay and about the discussions hosted by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).’ Kroes continued, ‘make no mistake…The way discussion is going right now shows that the DNT standard, on its own, will not guarantee satisfying legal cookie requirements.’


There are three areas that, in Kroes’ view, pose significant threats to the effectiveness of a DNT standard, all of which have come from industry infighting. Firstly, the way in which users are told about the standard and their choices. Second, reports of a ‘popular web server introducing a feature that amounted to overriding the DNT signal; in effect ignoring users’ wishes.’ and thirdly, the number of exceptions that were being made to the standard. 


The speech was used as a rallying call, in the hopes that industry can rescue the DNT standard and provide both business and users with a feature that was effective in addressing the rules on ePrivacy. However, there is a clear warning that if ‘DNT only goes half way, website providers will need to ensure legal compliance [with ePrivacy] beyond that, which would be a huge blow to business.


The commissioner concluded by saying that, ‘The standard must be rich enough for users to know exactly what compliant companies do with their information and for me to be able to say to industry: if you implement this, then I can assume you comply with your legal obligations [on cookies].’

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