Proposals to remove pop-up cookie consent boxes on websites will make it easier to spy on internet users, a privacy campaign group has warned.
Cookie banners are a common feature for internet users, who are asked to provide consent for websites as well as marketing and advertising companies to collect information about their browsing activity. Ministers announced proposals on Friday to move to an “opt-out” model for cookie consent.
“Going forward, the government intends to move to an opt-out consent model for cookies placed by websites,” said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS ). “This would mean that cookies could be set without asking for consent, but the website must provide the user with clear information on how to opt out.”
Open Rights Group (ORG), which campaigns for privacy and freedom of expression online, said the proposal would make spying on people’s activities the “default option”.
“Cookies are used to link activity between websites and create detailed and intrusive profiles of what you do, read and watch online,” said Mariano delli Santi, legal and policy manager at ORG. “The UK government is proposing to make online spying the default…Cookie banners are annoying, but there’s good reason for someone to ask your permission before creating detailed records at your subject.”
The cookie changes will form part of the Digital Reform Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech last month. The bill also proposes to increase the potential fine for rogue cold callers from the current maximum of £500,000 to £17.5m, as well as changing the governance structure of the independent data watchdog of the UK.
The DCMS added in a government response to a consultation on the reform bill that in the short term it will allow cookies to be placed on a user’s device without explicit consent, for a “small number of other non-intrusive purposes”. However, the DCMS said it took note of respondents’ concerns about the privacy and control of their personal data. He added that the opt-out approach would only be adopted when the right technological and browser-based solutions are widely available.
A cookie is a text file that a website places in a person’s browser. So-called first-party cookies record basic information about the visit, such as whether the user has logged in to a specific site before, which can allow websites to record user names and passwords. pass.
Third-party cookies allow commercial entities, such as marketing and advertising companies, to store information including browsing history and location. Third-party cookies, through agreements with multiple publishers and websites, are able to profile individual users and deliver targeted advertisements across multiple websites. However, they are being phased out. Apple and Mozilla have blocked third-party cookies on their Safari and Firefox browsers and Google is doing the same on Chrome by 2023.