Despite much attention being given to cookies, all types of tracking technology must comply with the ePrivacy Directive when it comes into force on 26 May, according to experts.
It is vital that companies realise that cookie-less targeting technologies, such as device fingerprinting or pixel-free systems, have exactly the same compliance obligations as any cookie-based system.
The law states that companies must get informed consent from consumers before storing or using cookies or any other technology that is used to track behaviour, which is sometimes overlooked.
Nick Stringer, the IAB’s head of regulatory affairs (pictured), said, “It’s often referred to as the cookie law, but the ePrivacy Directive encompasses all tracking technologies. As far as our self-regulatory work is concerned, it doesn’t matter which technology you use to deliver behavioural advertising, you still have to comply.”
From a regulatory point of view, Stringer said the most important thing is that companies are transparent about the technologies they are using and give consumers control.
The IAB is set to launch a consumer campaign to increase awareness of the icon that will feature on behavioural advertising, as well as the Your Online Choices website, ahead the directive’s full implementation in May (nma.co.uk 24 February 2012).
Scott Meyer, CEO of digital privacy and compliance firm Evidon, said, “There are no short cuts to complying with this directive. Solutions that don’t necessarily rely on cookies may have a lot of advantages but they have exactly the same compliance obligations under the ePrivacy Directive as any cookie-based solution.”
He advised companies to work with partners that will collect data in a responsible fashion, adding, “Doing a simple cookie audit is not enough. Companies need to have real monitoring and auditing capabilities running at all times in order to track and manage what is happening on their websites.”
In answer to any company looking to find a way of avoiding the directive, Stringer added, “Whether people like it or not, this is the law and I think businesses need to work with it rather than trying to circumvent it because that undermines the rest of the industry, which is working towards compliance and developing good practice.”
Although cookie-free data collection technologies require the same compliance, they could offer additional advantages.
Blue Cava is a fingerprinting technology, which is designed to identify the device a consumer is using to access the internet in order to build up a demographic profile, in much the same way as a cookie does. The added benefit, according to CEO David Norris, is that it enables businesses to save users’ opt in and opt out preferences more consistently.
“If a user decides to opt out, with Blue Cava’s technology, we don’t save that opt out in a cookie, but rather we associate the choice with the device, so we don’t ever lose it,” he said. “With cookies, if a user opts out and then deletes their cookies, they could then be opted back in unknowingly.”
Meyer said cookie-less solutions are also becoming increasingly important as companies look to limit the number of tags or pixels on their website, which it can impact performance.
“Pixel-free targeting solutions are really interesting for companies doing a lot of data collection, retargeting and sophisticated analysis as it is quicker and more efficient,” he said.
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