EU Chews on Web Cookies

Europe’s effort to regulate online “cookies” is crumbling, exposing how tough it is to curb the practice of tracking Internet users’ movements on the Web.

Seeking to be a leader in protecting online privacy, the European Union last year passed a law requiring companies to obtain consent from Web users when tracking files such as cookies are placed on users’ computers. Enactment awaits action by member countries.
Now, Internet companies, advertisers, lawmakers, privacy advocates and EU member nations can’t agree on the law’s meaning. Is it sufficient if users agree to cookies when setting up Web browsers? Is an industry-backed plan acceptable that would let users see—and opt out of—data collected about them? Must placing cookies on a machine depend on the user checking a box each time?

The answers are mired in bickering.
“We’re now in a sort of no man’s land,” says Bridget Treacy, head of the U.K. privacy practice at law firm Hunton & Williams LLP.

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