Who’s Data is it Anyway? Online Privacy Marches On #eMetrics

Who’s Data is it Anyway? Online Privacy Marches On #eMetrics

28th November 2012

A panel of two at the eMetrics Summit in London 2012 discuss one of the hot topics from 2012 – Data and Online Privacy. With the government changing their mind almost daily on what does and does not constitute an invasion of privacy it is important to keep on top of this.

The speakers are:

  • Vicky Brock, Owner, Highland Business Research
  • Dave Evans, Group Manager, Business and Industry, Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

In this session, the panel talk about their own personal experiences of data privacy and offer their best advice on how to keep on top of this.

A year has gone by since the cookie law was put in place and it is great that we are all still here and websites are all still running. It hasn’t caused a huge problem and it has been interesting to see how websites have adopted the law and implemented a system to help themselves become compliant. However, there are a lot of websites that have ignored it completely and moving forwards, they will need to start paying attention and implementing something on their site.

The Panel

The session is being led by Vicky who is asking Dave questions but the audience have played a big part in this session by asking the majority of the questions. In this post, I have summarised some of the key questions asked and provided the answers that were given throughout the session.

Are people confused with what they need to do?

The general consensus was that yes, people are confused and this is evident when you look around the web and see how different sites have implemented (what they think) is best practice for cookie law.

One of the things that has been forgotten is how internet users feel when they are followed and stalked on the web.  David spoke about a conference that he attended last week which was all about how you can re-market to customers but not once did they look at explaining what you are tracking customers for.

What should we be doing in the UK market?

The ICO are looking at popular and well used websites as well as complaints that they have received about the cookie law. It was surprising to hear that they have actually received around 500 complaints from the general public about cookies! Most of the popular sites are at least attempting to comply with the cookie law.

As yet, there have not been any notices or fines issues to websites in the UK. What the ICO want to do before they do anything like this is help websites become fully compliant and give them advice and support informing what they need to implement moving forwards. Those companies and websites that have been offered this advice and then ignore the ICO and don’t implement anything will be the ones that are more likely to be issued a notice or a fine in the future.

Would you be able to demonstrate to the ICO if they turned up on your doorstep that you have tried to be compliant? If so, you are on the right track but if not, the advice would be to get something in place to be able to show that you are trying.

Fines for breach of the cookie law may arise in the future but it would be more likely that companies are fined for elements of the data protection law instead. For example: If you are using cookies to collect personal data about users and people visiting your site don’t know this, not being cookie law compliant would be the reason that you have been able to collect the data but the actual law that you would have broken in this example would be data protection.

What are your competitors doing?

If a website isn’t cookie law compliant and the ICO start to investigate that website, one of the first places they will look is at the competitors. If your competitors are compliant or are at least trying to be compliant, this puts you in an awkward situation as you will not be able to justify why you have not been able to implement the cookie law.

Keep an eye on your competitors and see how they are implementing this and becoming compliant or get ahead of the game and be the first in your sector to implement it.

Can the ICO help you?

The ICO have helped websites by reviewing what they have implemented to help make sure they are compliant. They have given advice and tips to help the explanation of cookie law be clearer to visitors. Having something written by your lawyer isn’t always going to be the best way of explaining the reason you are asking customers to opt in. The explanation needs to be user friendly. If you do want to get in touch with the ICO for them to check what you have implemented you can. They will try to get back to all websites that contact them but they are only a small team so you need to bear this in mind.

Speaker Bios

If you want to find out more about the speaker, check out the below or follow them on Twitter:



Written By
Samantha Noble is the founder of Biddable Moments and a former editor and contributor to State of Digital.
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