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Expected impact of new EU legislation

Written by Ryan | 10-Mar-2011 11:14:43

There has been increasing press coverage in recent weeks concerning the impact of the impending EU e-privacy Directive in the UK. On 25th May this EU regulation passes into UK law, yet there is still confusion as to what the requirement for Advertisers, Publishers and Technology providers will actually be. We know that the UK Government (and the Information Commissioners Office) are saying they will be fairly relaxed about the way this will be enforced, at least for the first few months. But with little over two months to go, we had expected that more specific decisions would have been made over the way the Industry must comply.

Equi=Media have been reading the press coverage with interest, as well as engaging with technology and legal specialists from leading industry organisations and companies. From all of these discussions and coverage, we have summarised our view of the current situation below. Note that because no explicit direction has been given by the Government, this could change, but this is our current view.

What we think will happen:
•    This will impact “behavioural and re-targeting advertising” only
•    Behavioural & re-targeting ads will contain an icon with links to further information about the banners and the method of targeting and the appropriate “opt out” function
•    Advertisers (and others) will have to make their privacy pages clearer, more in depth and contain links to all the possible “opt out” tools for the behavioural technology platforms that they are active on
•    Browser settings will be accepted as a method for opting out of cookies more generally, but:
o    Advertisers & the industry as a whole would be advised to make the steps clearer and information about this more accessible
o    The “opt out” functionality in browsers may have to be more obvious and more sophisticated (we understand the Government is engaged with technology providers to develop this)

This is all fairly sensible and makes for a better user experience and greater trust amongst web users.

What we think might happen:
•    There will be a requirement for much greater publicity of the “cookie opt out” tool that the IAB provides: http://www.youronlinechoices.com/uk/your-ad-choices From within this tool, users can control their cookies from behavioural networks, by choosing to turn them “off” or “on”
•    More significant that the above, there will be much more publicity of “cookie deletion” within browser settings and the subsequent reaction of web users to “mass delete” cookies. This would then have an impact beyond behavioural targeting and would impact on the effectiveness of many online tools where cookies are used to improve web users’ online experiences (including tracking and web analytics tools). This might have a short term negative impact on web experiences, but we are confident that after a period of time, users would either return to previous habits or become more sophisticated and selective about the cookies they would remove.

These are certainly possible, especially because of the amount of publicity lately. Although we think that provided the points above come into practice, the need for these will be less.

What we don’t think will happen:
•    A requirement were to stretch beyond behavioural and re-targeting advertising
•    An “opt in” requirement for cookies across the web. This is far too cumbersome and is not what the majority of web users (certainly not the younger generation) would want.
•    Websites have to have a universal opt in as their home page – the user experience would be impacted and only the minority of web users would think this was a positive step.

These would mean huge technological development and would require significant time and investment for advertisers, publishers and technology platforms.

We are optimistic that the Government will not allow any enforcement of law that significantly impacts on the ecommerce sector in a time of slow economic growth in the UK economy.

Equi=Media are attending a CBI conference on the 29th March, which Ed Vaizey (the communications Minister) will be attending. Here we expect to get much more explicit feedback on any Government decision (if nothing else is announced in the meantime). As soon as we are clear on any implications we will provide an update.