Law and Internet - from the European Union Side of Things

As I started talking about the opposition between law and internet on my end of year book reading recommendations, it seems like I’ve opened the Pandora’s box.  The issue is simple: innovation is happening so quickly in the internet field, and then legislation tries to catch-up by trying to pass some laws and regulations. The most widely covered law/bill is currently the Stop Online Piracy Act that is about to be passed in the U.S. Learn about law and the Internet.

On the other side of the North Atlantic ocean, the European Union is also busy trying to address some privacy issues with regards to websites. It is called the EU cookies directive and you can check the full details here.

So what’s the point here?

Clearly, this law will enforce website owners to ask for permission from the internet user before setting a cookie to be stored on that user’s computer. Again, the main goal here can be legitimate:  website owners are trying to collect as much information as possible from the internet visitor so as to customize the browsing experience, this law just wants to systematize the fact that those websites should ask for permission first before setting those cookies.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m brave enough to check the cookies that are stored on my computer, I’m more than astonished to find out the huge list of cookies that lies around. Most of them come from domain names that I’m not even aware of. So, I tend to think that for any website that I visit, there must be multiple cookies that are used.  I can only think of all those sites using JavaScript that can do so, among which is the biggest player of the internet, I name Google with its Google Analytics tracking software.

Wanna simulate how it’d work?

So I searched the internet for a site who’d be daring enough to simulate what would happen if a website would have to ask for permission before setting a cookie on a user’s browser. And I found a gem and funny page. So, I tried to answer all the questions, and I can tell you I was a bit tired at the end after answering 5 or 6 cookies-related questions. Wanna have a good laugh? Go and check this webpage that simulates how the user experience would be with the EU cookie law.

Funny? Disturbing?

Made you wanna run away from that website? I had the same feelings too. Now imagine a big e-commerce site (or even a small eCommerce website) who’d ask that number of authorizations when someone wants to visit the site (think of Amazon, eBay or that niche e-commerce site): would you still buy from such website?

I know, this law (or the way it is written as of now) may seem “non-sense”, anyway, it seems to be taken seriously into account by big guys (again): have you noticed that Youtube, for example, have included the embedding via iframe of their videos instead of JavaScript? They now ship with a “privacy enabled mode”.

As unbelievable as it may seem, this topic is yet to become another “story of the year”. What’s your view on this “law and Internet” issue?