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The consumer group Which? is urging the European Commission to tighten provisions of its new legislation relating to cookies and electronic privacy to deal more effectively with the use of ‘flash cookies’.
‘Cookies’ are information sent to a user’s computer from a web site. Once stored on a computer, every time the user accesses that website or a third party associated website, the website can recognise the cookie and obtain a record of which websites the user has visited. ‘Flash cookies’ are a form of ‘cookie’ that run inside ‘Adobe Flash Player’ and which are particularly hard to remove from a computer.

Both Which? and The Office of Fair Trading have discovered that flash cookies are being used more and more by certain businesses to track information about user’s browsing habits which is then sold to advertising companies. They can also be used to restore ordinary cookies that have previously been removed from a computer. The use of such cookies without the computer user’s consent or knowledge is likely to constitute an offence under the Data Protection Act.

The European legislation (Directive 2009/136/EC) is due to be implemented by 11 May 2011. At present it requires the consent of the computer user to be given before cookies can be sent to the computer unless the cookie is strictly necessary to provide a service explicitly requested by the user. However, it does not, at present, include new and developing tracking technologies such as flash cookies in its remit.
Advertising and marketing businesses using tracking technology should ensure that their practices comply with legislation including the Data Protection Act and the forthcoming Regulations.


Written by Andrew Hodges

March 14, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Comment, LinkedIn

Tagged with , ,

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