ICO To Urge G7 Action On Annoying Cookie Consent Pop-ups

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has today urged all its fellow data protection and privacy authorities in G7 countries to overhaul cookie consent pop-ups.

It is no secret that cookie consent pop-ups is today the bane for many web surfers, when browsing multiple websites.

Last month the UK signalled its intention to address the issue, when the government said it would refresh the UK’s data protection rules.

Cookie pop-ups

The government announced the appointment of a new information commissioner, who will be put in charge of overseeing the transformation, after it poached New Zealand’s Privacy Commissioner to replace the UK’s outgoing Information Commissioner.

John Edwards is currently the privacy commissioner of New Zealand, but after a ‘global search, he is the British government’s preferred candidate to replace Elizabeth Denham, whose term in office will end on 31 October after a three-month extension.

But today the current Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham called on fellow G7 data protection and privacy authorities to work together to overhaul cookie consent pop-ups.

Chairing the meeting, Information Commissioner Denham will virtually meet the G7 authorities on 7-8 September, said the ICO.

At the meeting, she will present an idea on how to improve the current cookie consent mechanism, making web browsing smoother and more business friendly while better protecting personal data.

Currently many people automatically select ‘I agree’ when presented with cookies pop-ups on the internet, which means they are not having meaningful control over their personal data.

“I often hear people say they are tired of having to engage with so many cookie pop-ups,” said Denham. “That fatigue is leading to people giving more personal data than they would like.”

“The cookie mechanism is also far from ideal for businesses and other organisations running websites, as it is costly and it can lead to poor user experience,” Denham added. “While I expect businesses to comply with current laws, my office is encouraging international collaboration to bring practical solutions in this area.”

Concerted effort

“There are nearly two billion websites out there taking account of the world’s privacy preferences,” said Denham. “No single country can tackle this issue alone. That is why I am calling on my G7 colleagues to use our convening power. Together we can engage with technology firms and standards organisations to develop a coordinated approach to this challenge.”

Denham’s call comes amid a join effort by each G7 authority, which will present a specific technology or innovation issue they believe closer cooperation is needed.

The UK’s ICO focus is on tackling annoying cookie pop-ups, which is ruining the web browsing experience for many surfers.

The explosion of cookie consent pop-ups is partly the fault of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which had hoped to make it more difficult for firms to track people’s web surfing habits.

The ICO intends to present its vision for the future, where web browsers, software applications and device settings allow people to set lasting privacy preferences of their choosing, rather than having to do that through pop-ups every time they visit a website.

The ICO said this “would ensure people’s privacy preferences are respected and the use of personal data is minimised, while improving users’ browsing experience and removing friction for businesses.”

Encouraging change

The ICO said this approach is already technologically possible and compliant with data protection law, but the G7 authorities could have a major impact in encouraging tech firms and standards organisations to further develop and roll out privacy-oriented solutions to this issue.

“The digital world brings international opportunities and challenges, but these are currently being addressed by a series of domestic solutions,” said Denham. “We need to consider how the work of governments and regulators can be better knitted together, to keep people’s trust in data driven innovation.”

The UK’s ICO is one of seven data protection and privacy organisations.

The six others include: the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (Canada); Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (France); Garante per la Protezione dei Dati Personali (Italy); Personal Information Protection Commission, 個人情報保護委員会 (Japan); Federal Trade Commission (USA); and the Federal Commissioner for Data Protection and Freedom of Information, BfDI (Germany).

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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