Law Will Make Web Cookies Completely Opt-In By Default

The days of cookies surreptitiously tracking your every movement online could be coming to an end. A European law goes into effect this May that would require Web sites to get “explicit consent” from its users before putting a cookie, or cookies, on their system. A reasonably big deal, yes.

The idea is to limit so-called behavioral advertising, at least when it comes to unsuspecting users. With this type of advertising, an advertiser creates a sort of user profile that’s based on your Web surfing habits. They do so by placing a cookie on your system. If you visit a lot of sports sites you’ll see sports ads. If you visit a lot of music sites you’ll see music ads. I know I sometimes see “learn English!” ads, which is probably because I visit so many Spain-based Web sites ( Marca , El Mundo Deportivo, etc.) to read up on La Liga.

What should happen after the law goes into effect is that you’ll get a pop-up, or some other mechanism, that asks your permission to put a cookie on your system. You can say “sure, no problem,” at which point you’ll be setting yourself up for these targeted ads, or you can opt-out.

This, combined with something like Internet Explorer 9’s new privacy features should make your Web browsing all the more private.