The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has called on fellow G7 data protection and privacy authorities to work together to overhaul cookie consent pop-ups.
This comes as part of a push to ensure people’s privacy is more meaningfully protected and businesses can provide a better web browsing experience.
Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham will virtually meet the G7 authorities today and tomorrow to discuss the issue.
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. The fact that most don’t really know what they’re agreeing to – understandable considering the wall of text you’re generally met with – means people do not have meaningful control over their personal data.
Speaking on the issue, Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said: “I often hear people say they are tired of having to engage with so many cookie pop-ups. 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. While I expect businesses to comply with current laws, my office is encouraging international collaboration to bring practical solutions in this area.”
Denham added: “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.”
Joined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), each G7 authority will present a specific technology or innovation issue they believe closer cooperation is needed.
The event is closely aligned with the G7 “Data Free Flow with Trust” initiative.
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The ICO will present its own 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 contend with pop-ups each time they visit a website.
There has already been push-back against the planned G7 meeting, with detractors claiming this is an issue that should have already been addressed and the UK’s data watchdog shouldn’t require collaborative help in dealing with it.
Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, said: “We’ve waited for over two years for ICO to deal with this and now they’re asking the G7 to do their job for them.
“The simple fact is that most cookie banners are unlawful, and the data collection behind them is, as her [Elizabeth Denham] own report states, also unlawful.
“If the ICO wants to sort out cookie banners then it should follow its own conclusions and enforce the law.”
Open Rights Group has called for the introduction of automated signals which ask for users not to be tracked. However, the group says it “does not see this as a replacement for halting the unlawful practice of the online AdTech industry”.
Conversely, the ICO believes the push by G7 authorities could encourage technology firms and standards organisations to further develop and roll out privacy-oriented solutions to this issue.
Denham commented: “The digital world brings international opportunities and challenges, but these are currently being addressed by a series of domestic solutions.
“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.”