Dec 19, 2011

Why don't we have restrictions on use of cookies to protect users' privacy in the US like they do in the UK?

In the UK there are regulations that provide restrictions on how businesses use cookies, basically requiring consent before any tracking software is installed on users computers. Why doesn't the US do something similar? Sure, you can forbid all cookies, and I have an extension on Firefox that lets me manage what cookies stay each time I close the browser, but I'm not fooling myself and thinking the average user is putting much, if any thought into the question of cookies. Would there be any downsides to implementing a similar requirement that companies ask for user approval before installing cookies and tracking their internet use?

Zachary DeBoer

Simple answer:
Because the United States isn't COMMUNIST like the U.K.  Yet....


Relying on the government can be quite dangerous over time. What starts out as a rationale and reasonable policy can often morph into something else entirely as time goes by. The UK seems to have gone a bit overboard in monitoring and policing its population; I am not sure I'd want these United States to follow in its footsteps.

I think it's much better to educate users and let them take the steps necessary to manage cookies themselves. There are plenty of browsers and tools available to do this. It just requires some thought and decisions on the part of the user to set things up to manage cookies properly.

My reflexive response is to say look at SOPA and what can happen when the government gets in the business of regulating the internet - a bunch of ill-informed people do their best to impose stupid and harmful laws.  After thinking about it, though, I think the thing here is that the business that want to put cookies on your machine have a lot more money than you do, and they are probably going to give enough money to politicians to make sure restrictions never are put into place.  I do think that there is an element of personal responsibility that should be expected out of US consumers.  As you noted, it isn't all that hard to keep all those tracking cookies at bay, but most people probably don't even try.  Also, cookies are not always a bad thing, and make it much more simple to log in to sites that you visit often.  That said, I don't think it would be too much of a burden to have an opt-in requirement for cookies.  I just don't think that we will see it in the US anytime soon.

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