Internet privacy in Europe is becoming far more complex as companies implement the European Unions’ web privacy law on data collection.
The law, passed in 2009 and currently set to be put into action for the first time, mandates that large companies, such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft, inform Internet users that they are accessing or storing data on their computers if they have not requested the service. Nicknamed the e-privacy law, it forces technology companies to tamper with computer users’ cookies, which store the data pertaining to the web pages they visit.
The technology companies affected by the legislation are no strangers to cookies, as the information stored in them has long been accessed as part of online advertising efforts.
However, some experts in Europe are concerned that, while the law is making an effort to force these companies to respect online privacy, its impracticality may prevent compliance for many. Speaking in an interview with Bloomberg, Quentin Archer, technology specialist at London-based law firm Hogan Lovells, said the main problem facing the legislation “is how to implement it.”
According to Archer, the inherent complexity of cookies will cause a roadblock that may neutralize the legislation.
“Because there are so many different types of cookies it’s not really possible to give precise guidance, so businesses are left looking at the general principles,” Archer told Bloomberg.
Others agree. Sally Annerueau, data privacy analyst at London’s Taylor Wessing, told Bloomberg “implementation seems to be happening in a drip-drip fashion at the moment.”
Internet security and privacy legislation has been years in the making in Europe. Google and Facebook have both been criticized by lawmakers in Germany and the U.K., each of which cited privacy violations stemming data collection practices involved with basic services each company provides.