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Simplifying Cookie Consent: The European Commission’s Approach

In an ever-evolving digital landscape, the European Commission is stepping up to ensure that consumers’ rights and privacy are at the forefront of the online experience. On December 19, 2023, a pivotal meeting took place between the Commission, digital advertisers, consumer associations, and traders. 

Their aim? To present the draft — ‘cookie pledging principles‘ — focused on giving consumers greater control and understanding of tracking-based advertising.

The essence of this discussion was clear: how to better empower consumers in an online world often obfuscated by complex data practices. The goal is to refine these principles, with the European Data Protection Board’s (EDPB) input, and unveil the final version at the Consumer Summit in April 2024.

Let’s explore how these cookie pledging principles will impact your business, ensuring that your digital strategies are not only compliant but also resonate with a privacy-conscious consumer base.

The Pledge Principles in Summary

The principles aim to simplify cookie management for consumers while ensuring their privacy and data protection rights. Key aspects include:

  • Transparency about the use of cookies and the associated business model.
  • Simplification of consent requests.
  • Providing clear, unambiguous choices to consumers.
  • Respecting user settings for cookies and advertising preferences.

Key Points from the EDPB

The EDPB’s feedback plays a crucial role in shaping these principles. Some of their key comments include:

Principle A: Consent and Essential Cookies:

The EDPB emphasizes the need for transparent and clear consent mechanisms. Notably, essential cookies, which do not require consent, shouldn’t clutter consent requests. This principal aims to simplify the information users need to process, ensuring it’s easy to understand how their personal data is handled.

  • Essential cookies, which don’t require consent, shouldn’t be part of the consent request.
  • Information relevant to personal data processing must be provided, even if consent for storage/access isn’t required.

For managing essential cookies and providing relevant information about personal data processing, use iubenda’s tools for creating cookie bannersprivacy policies, and ensuring clarity in consent. 

For managing essential cookies and providing relevant information about personal data processing, use iubenda’s tools for creating cookie bannersprivacy policies, and ensuring clarity in consent. 

Principles B, C, and D: ‘Pay or Okay’ System:

These principles address the ‘pay or okay’ system, where consumers often face a choice between accepting tracking or paying for content. The EDPB advocates for upfront explanations of such business models. The focus is on clear, simple language explaining the implications of accepting or rejecting trackers, and offering less intrusive advertising alternatives.

  • Websites/apps should upfront disclose if their content is financed through advertising.
  • Choices regarding trackers should be clear and easy to understand.
  • An alternative to tracking-based advertising should be offered.

iubenda offers comprehensive solutions to ensure websites and apps are compliant with various laws, including the ePrivacy Directive and GDPR. Our tools are beneficial for evaluating each instance of information access or storage in terminal equipment. Learn more here →

Principle E: Consent Specificity:

To combat the overwhelming nature of cookie consent, the EDPB suggests a more streamlined approach. Users should not have to consent to every single tracker, reducing the complexity and making the choice more effective.

  • Consent must be free, informed, and specific.
  • Gatekeepers under the Digital Markets Act must offer less personalized alternatives to users.

For ensuring that consent is free, informed, and specific, and to comply with the Digital Markets Act, iubenda’s privacy controls and cookie solution can be customized and assist in meeting these requirements.

Principle F: Business Model Consent:

The principle states that separate consent for cookies used in the chosen advertising model isn’t needed once the consumer has agreed to the business model. This approach aims to reduce ‘cookie fatigue’ and align the consent process more closely with consumer choices.

Principle G: Duration of Consent:

A significant change is the recommendation that consent requests should not be repeated within a one-year period. This principle respects the consumer’s choice and aims to alleviate the annoyance of repeated consent prompts.

Principle H: Application Settings:

The EDPB recognizes the potential of software applications in empowering users to manage their cookie preferences. This principle supports settings that allow users to preset their preferences, further simplifying the consent process.

Next Steps

Stakeholders will discuss these principles further, considering voluntary adoption as a step forward. The objective is to finalize these principles in early 2024, following input from the EDPB and stakeholders.

These principles mark a significant step in enhancing consumer privacy and choice in the digital age. They reflect a growing awareness of the need for clarity and simplicity in digital advertising practices. As the European Commission and stakeholders continue to fine-tune these principles, further to the insight given by the EDPB, the anticipation grows for their final presentation at the Consumer Summit in April 2024. This collaboration is a testament to the ongoing effort to balance the scales between digital business models and consumer rights, paving the way for a more transparent and user-friendly digital future.