To the consternation of Europe’s e-business community, members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg voted Tuesday to restrict the use of “cookies”. The move came after parliament had debated the adoption of an amendment to the draft directive on electronic data collection and privacy.

Cookies, lauded by the Internet Advertising Bureau as “a user-friendly internet tool”, are widely employed by the online industry to authenticate surfers and speed-up and simplify use of the internet.

The IAB is now crossing its fingers that the European Commission and national experts in the Council Working Group will overturn this amendment before the draft directive goes before the European Parliament for a second reading.

Explains IAB chairman Danny Meadows-Klue: “Cookies form the fundamental transmission mechanic that powers the internet. A change in the law will restrict and frustrate people using the internet forcing them to re-register or re-enter preferences every time they re-visit a site – putting them off e-commerce and making it harder for them to use the Web to search for information, products, services or entertainment.

“Commercial websites will be forced to restructure and rebuild their sites, as their integrated ‘session management systems’, which allow customers to complete purchases over multiple visits and help them store relevant information, would not work without cookies. We will now turn our attention to educating national experts of the Council working groups as to why cookies are essential - both for our industry and for consumers using the Internet.”

Meadows-Klue argues that that cookies are legitimately used to:

• Protect users and ensure they are genuine visitors to a site and not somebody else using their password

• Authenticate and speed up a user’s identification and e-commerce transactions

• Recognise preferences for all types of website and search engine – for example remembering user names and passwords

• Cap the frequency of ad-serving and to make sure that advertisements are rotated and not duplicated during any one visit to a site.

[Having finally realised that the term “cookie” is not simply American for ‘sugary biscuit’, WAMN’s editor (the original techno-turkey) is still unable to understand exactly what this innocent-sounding web gizmo is or does. However, his much-thumbed online Oxford English Dictionary reveals all: Cookies: a packet of data sent by an internet server to a browser, which is returned by the browser each time it subsequently accesses the same server, used to identify the user or track their access to the server.]

News source: Interactive Advertising Bureau (UK)