Evolving Privacy Laws May Change Affiliate Landscape

Stephen Yagielowicz

Whether it is the American need for a 2257 statement or the German need for age verification, or the outright ban on Internet pornography imposed by any number of countries; evolving legislation is redefining the “Wild West” nature of the old web, bringing corporate responsibilities to this historically rebellious venue, which crosses all borders and cultures.

The latest arena to see this shift play out is in the realm of privacy, with the European Union now regulating the behavior of marketers targeting its citizens — and this includes applicability to U.S. firms.

To assist website owners with their compliance efforts, TRUSTe is offering a free cookie audit of sites up to 100 pages deep.

Calling itself the leader in online privacy, TRUSTe says that the average website employs 64 pieces of tracking technology. In the face of this reality, the company is offering its clients a range of information and tools for dealing with the new EU Cookie Directive, which went into effect on May 25.

TRUSTe says that the EU Cookie Directive will be strictly enforced across the EU, starting in the U.K., and that all companies that market to EU citizens (and which use cookies or other tracking technologies to gather info on them) must comply with the regulations.

This compliance involves informing consumers that their data is being processed and obtaining their consent prior to storing or accessing any information on the consumer’s computer or other connected device, providing access to their data as well as the ability to correct or delete this information. Visitor data may only be used for the disclosed purposes and “informed consent” must be obtained before the cookie or other tracking technology is placed on the user’s computer.

To assist website owners with their compliance efforts, TRUSTe is offering a free cookie audit of sites up to 100 pages deep.

Understanding cookie use on your site, including third-party cookies from Google Analytics or other services, is vital to compliance — but understanding the law itself is also vital, as even experts disagree. Consumer confusion also plays a significant role in the real-world impact this law will have.

For example, Microsoft’s Craig Macdonald told SMX London attendees that an Econsultancy report reveals that 82 percent of survey respondents believe that cookie opt-out is a bad idea for consumers, while 80 percent of consumers think it is a good idea. He also noted that a different survey showed that 55 percent of consumers see cookies as malware, but despite this, opt-out rates may be extremely low, with a two percent email opt-out rate cited.

While many adult website operators and affiliates may see compliance as an inconvenience at best and a site-crippling deal killer at worst, there is a potential unseen benefit: more sites may see sales because of a drop-off in illicit “cookie stuffing” and other market-diluting practices that often favor large tube sites and other major players.

To learn more about the new law, click here.

While you should always seek advice from a qualified attorney, the bottom line is that online privacy concerns are increasingly being addressed and all website operators need to know how these new laws will affect their business — and understand the substantial risks of noncompliance.