The long-awaiting EU Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive which was expected to come into force today has descended into farce as the Information Commissioner’s Office have announced companies have an entire year to comply with the regulations.
The directive is designed to regulate the use of ‘cookies’ on websites, stating that “explicit consent” must be sought and collected from all internet users to download them onto their computers. These cookies are text files which store browsing information and allow marketing companies to use targeting adverts which are far more profitable that standard advertisements.
Although the directive is now in effect, the ICO has agreed not to enforce it until May 26th 2012. They warn companies that they will monitor progress throughout the year to ensure efforts are being made, although it seems unfeasible that an organisation can scrutinize thousands of websites over the course of the next 365 days. After the 12 months are up, companies who have failed to implement the legislation could be punished with fines up to £500,000.
Christopher Graham, the Information Commissioner said:
"The implementation of this new legislation is challenging and involves significant technological considerations. That's why we've already consulted a wide range of stakeholders.
"But we want to spread the net as wide as we can and would welcome further comments from others who have practical examples to share. This advice is very much a work in progress and doesn't yet provide all of the answers."
"Organisations and businesses that run websites aimed at UK consumers are being given up to 12 months to 'get their house in order' before enforcement of the new EU cookies law begins. This does not let everyone off the hook. Those who choose to do nothing will have their lack of action taken into account when we begin formal enforcement of the rules."