Cookie Disclosure and Opt-Out Tools: A brief round up

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In December 2011, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) issued guidance in December 2011 stating that “collection or use of an individual’s web browsing activity must be done with that person’s knowledge and consent” and that there must be an “opt-out” mechanism if the technology is being used for on-line behavioural advertising. However, organizations in Canada have been short on tools for complying with the OPC’s guidance and have been slow to increase the prominence of their disclosure regarding cookie use.

In the United States, as I reported in a previous post, the FTC has called for the advertising industry to make “Do Not Track” initiatives fully operational by the end of 2012. Advertisers must be transparent about their deployment of cookies and other on-line tracking technologies and provide people with a method of opting out. The Digital Advertising Alliance in the U.S. has continued to promote an advertising opt out tool (AdChoices), which is beginning to appear on web sites (often near the link to organization’s privacy policy). The Network Advertising Initiative also offers an opt-out tool and organizations have been including links to the tool for users to opt-out.

In the UK, new “cookie” rules came into force on May 26, 2012. Organizations must now obtain consent to the use of cookies and provide a method for subscribers and users to opt-out of cookies (with some exceptions). The UK Information Commissioner’s Office has issued a guidance document to assist organizations with compliance efforts. The examples provided for increasing the prominence of disclosure of cookie use and how to obtain consent is particularly helpful.

Meanwhile, Canada has lagged behind on practical advice from the Federal and Provincial Privacy Commissioners and tools for assisting Internet users to opt-out of tracking technologies. On the “tools” front, this may change. In a preface to an article reporting on an interview with outgoing IAB Canada president Paula Gignac, Marketing Magazine reports that IAB Canada is in negotiations to bring the AdChoices program to Canada. Some Canadian organizations aren’t waiting for a Canadian solution. The AdChoices icon has begun popping up on websites of Canadian-based organizations.