Presumably the new ePrivacy draft is based on a paternalistic assumption that the only reason some people are unconcerned about cookies is that they do not understand them, because forcing this choice on someone who does is as impotent as having responsible drinkers sign a consent form before letting them imbibe alcohol. But of course, forcing a choice on somebody who does not understand it is self-evidently pointless, just as a Belgian beer of 11 percent ABV might not sound—or even taste—all that strong to somebody unaccustomed to booze; after all, it is almost 90 percent nonalcoholic, so why not sign and guzzle a few pints of the stuff? In either case, forcing people to make a particular choice does not empower them to choose more wisely, it only pesters them. Ironically, the proposed rules do nothing to stop cookies that consumers cannot control, such as so-called “zombie cookies,” which are difficult to delete.
Pointlessness alone should be sufficient evidence against any futile law, but in this case the proposed measure is also harmful because its apparent intention seems to be to encourage more people to block third-party cookies, which will starve important services of revenue. Services from social networking to music and video streaming to journalism rely on advertising to stay afloat. They can charge advertisers more for ads that target particular audiences using cookies, allowing them to provide their services at lower prices or for free, without over-burdening their customers with excessive advertising. Europe is already behind in Internet services, and this measure will just make it even harder for it to catch up.
One unsettling implication of the proposed measures would be for journalism. Restricting the ability of the press to support itself with targeted advertising will stoke demand for larger audiences to compensate for less effective ads, making it harder for serious news outlets to compete with poor-quality clickbait. Quality news outlets already struggle to survive in a market where few consumers are willing to pay for good journalism. Losses in this industry have already had disturbing social consequences, particularly the rise of so-called “fake news,” and the number of people willing to believe it over verified sources and established facts.
Image credit: T Sheppard.