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New EU web privacy law could catch retailers out

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UK businesses must “wake up” to the dangers poised by a new EU law on web privacy, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said today.

From May 25th an amendment to the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive will require firms to obtain consent from visitors to their website before collecting and storing their personal data.

Cookies, small files that a website puts on a user’s computer so that it can remember something, are commonly used by retailers to save personal data such as payment details and property addresses but will be illegal to use unless agreed by consumers.

Christopher Graham, Information Commissioner, said: “While the roll out of this new law will be a challenge, it will have positive benefits as it will give people more choice and control over what information businesses and other organisations can store on and access from consumers’ own computers.

“The directive will come into force in less than two months time and businesses and organisations running websites in the UK must wake up to the fact that this is happening.”

Transactional websites and social media platforms have been a useful way for retailers to collect consumer details in order to improve their online offerings, and retail has only just begun to access the potential of working with sites like Facebook.

Most websites rely on the use of cookies to make repeat visits to a service easier and more appealing to consumers, and Graham has acknowledged this and said that he is working on ways to allow consumers to opt in.

Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, commented: “We recognise that work will not be complete by the implementation deadline. The government is clear that it will take time for meaningful solutions to be developed, evaluated and rolled out.

“We recognise this could cause uncertainty for businesses and consumers. Therefore we do not expect the ICO to take enforcement action in the short term against businesses and organisations as they work out how to address their use of cookies.”

This is not the only new piece of legislation which e-tailers need to adapt to, with the Advertising Standards Authority given new powers from this month to clamp down on misleading online marketing material.

Published on Tuesday 08 March by Editorial Assistant

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