In the world of web browsing small packets of information called “cookies” are used to catalog important information used from login passwords and usernames to the items in your online shopping carts. However these little packets of information aren’t always used for such necessary web functions. Corperations can add, through their own on site ads, third party cookies that can be used to gather information on what webpage you have just visited. Invasive as it may seem the purpose is simply focusing their advertisments more directly at you.
Most modern web browsers that are worth their salt have a feature that lets you to select which cookies you would like to accept. For example Mozilla’s Firefox has a check box for accepting cookies and a nother one for accepting third party cookies, unchecking the third party cookies box will deny access to your computer for applications/pop-ups that are not part of the site you are currently visiting. Likewise Apple’s Safari browser has three radio buttons for accepting cookies; “Always”, “Never”, and “Only from sites I visit” (in fine print below: “Block cookies from third parties and advertisors”).
As simple as it is to go into your web browser’s settings and simply click either a check box or radio button the European Union has decided to do something quite intelegent and beneficial to the protection of the average (particularly the “below” average) computer using citizen. Begining on the twentyfith of May all cookies not deemed to be absolutely necessary must obtain the user’s explicit consent before installing onto the computer. Unfortunately this means the minor inconvenience of pop-up windows asking for permission to install a cookie onto your computer for every site you visit and every time you login to any one of your online accounts.
The question one should be asking themselves is will this law change anything? If we already have the ability to block unwanted and invasive cookies then what difference does this law make? The internet users that don’t use the built in third party refusal settings of their browser are, most likely, the same type of computer users who will just hit “accept” or slam the “enter” key as soon as the pop-up appears. A good portion probably wont know what a cookie is and hit “deny” just to be on the safe side and then wonder, and complain, as to why the website isn’t keeping their information or otherwise functioning as expected.
All in all this new law is a big step forward for the privacy concerned population but it is generally useless and will create nothing but a bother to the general population unless proper education on what a cookie is comes along with the pop-up. We shall see how this turns out, rumors have spread that such a law isn’t that far away for our friends in the States but it all hinges on how the European test subjects react.