USCIB Letter to European Commission on “Cookies” and Protection of Privacy in Electronic Communications
March 19, 2002
Mr. Erkii Liikanen
Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society
Dear Commissioner Liikanen,
Thank you for responding to my letter of October 9, 2001 expressing our general views on the Draft Directive on processing personal data and the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector (500PC0385). Although some of our concerns have been addressed in adopted amendments by either the Parliament or Council, several persist. We encourage you to reconsider the issues mentioned in my first letter.
Following our initial comments to you and Commissioner Bolkestein, an amendment was made to the text requiring web site operators who wish to send cookies to users’ terminal equipment to inform them about it and to give them the right to refuse (opt-out) to receive the cookie or similar devices. While these obligations are certainly a fair compromise between users’ privacy rights and legitimate business needs, we believe that complying with the obligation to provide notice and information on opting out before the web site operator sends the cookie to the Internet user will interfere with the functionality of the Internet and discourage its usage.
The technical implications of providing the requisite information before the cookie is sent would have a severe impact on consumers’ use and enjoyment of the Internet and web sites. Web sites would have to be reprogrammed to provide for pop-up windows to appear before an Internet page is made accessible to the Internet user, causing unnecessary financial burdens to web site owners and inconvenience and frustration for users. The impact of this requirement would most severely affect European companies, as non-EU-based web sites would not be subject to this directive and therefore not be forced to compromise their functionality or user-friendliness.
Thomas M.T. Niles
cc: Commissioner F. Bolkestein