UK data watchdog urges G7 to overhaul cookie pop-ups

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is calling on G7 data protection and privacy authorities to work together to overhaul cookie consent pop-ups.

The ICO, which since 2018 has had the power to impose fines on data controllers of up to £17 million or 4 per cent of global turnover, said that the move would mean “more meaningfully” protected privacy, as well as a better web browsing experience.

Chairing the meeting, information commissioner Elizabeth Denham will virtually meet with the G7 authorities, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Developments (OECD), and the World Economic Forum (WEF) on 7-8 September.

The data authority warned that 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.”
She added that the existing cookie mechanism is “far from ideal” for businesses and other organisations running websites, because it is costly and leads to poor user experience.

The ICO will suggest that web browsers, software applications, and device settings should 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 UK data watchdog said that while this approach is already technologically possible and compliant with data protection law, it believes the G7 authorities could have a major impact in encouraging technology firms and standards organisations to further develop and roll out privacy-oriented solutions to this issue.

“While I expect businesses to comply with current laws, my office is encouraging international collaboration to bring practical solutions in this area,” explained the information commissioner. “There are nearly two billion websites out there taking account of the world’s privacy preferences.

“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.”

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