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EU employers call for cookie rethink

Daniel Thomas
The European Union came under further pressure to amend planned legislation on cookies last week, when the Union of Industrial and Employers' Confederations of Europe (Unice) added its weight to recent industry criticism.

The proposal on the protection of personal data, which is in the final stages of the legislative process, requires that businesses provide "prior information" before cookies - tools designed to ease a user's movement between Web pages and track their usage habits - are served.

Unice, echoing criticism from an industry group led by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said such a requirement would make the Internet experience "extremely cumbersome and create a disincentive for European citizens to use the Internet".

The group, which is made up of members from 33 industrial and employers' federations from 26 countries, said it is fully aware of the importance of adequate privacy protection throughout the EU internal market, but fears that an indiscriminate ban on cookies will drive away consumers and harm business.

It warned that the legislation in its current form will create barriers and reduce the user-friendliness of Web sites,because of the risk that Internet users will be swamped by multiple pop-up windows providing them with information before the sending of each cookie.

"Unice calls on the European institutions to refrain from creating unnecessary barriers to the Internet and to seek to improve the Council of Ministers' position which will provide a workable solution," it said.

Last month, the Interactive Advertising Bureau, an Internet industry group, called for amendments to the legislation to allow the continued use of cookies unless users choose to opt out.

The current proposal will be put to a vote at a meeting of the Committee on Citizens' Freedoms and Rights today (18 April), before the final plenary session vote in Strasbourg in May.

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