Answer given by Ms Kroes on behalf of the Commission
1. The Commission has a clear position on cookies. EU data protection and privacy legislation, including the ePrivacy Directive and its provisions that apply to cookies, aims at empowering citizens to exercise effectively their right to privacy and strengthening their trust in online services, while ensuring that the development of Europe's digital economy is not inhibited by unnecessary administrative burden or consumer-unfriendly solutions. The Vice-President of the Commission responsible for Digital Agenda made this position very clear on a number of occasions, recently in a speech in Brussels on 22 June 2011 where she urged all interested parties to agree, by June 2012, on a standard for a technology that enables users to instruct their device or application to accompany all network requests with an indication that they do not want to be tracked and specifies how websites need to honour such an indication (‘do-not-track’ (DNT)). The Commission considers that this approach has the potential to help ensure simple and clear compliance with the applicable rules.
2. The amended Directive on ePrivacy underlines the need to give information to the user on any information that is stored or accessed on her or his device by a third party, including cookies which are not strictly necessary to provide a service requested by the user. Users may give consent by any appropriate method enabling a freely given, specific and informed indication of their wishes. The methods for providing information and expressing consent should be as user-friendly as possible.
3. The Commission welcomes the efforts made so far by the advertising and media industry to come up with self-regulatory solutions for providing more information to users and ensure that any data collection is transparent and happens with the consent of the user. Such solutions, however, need to involve all stakeholders, including consumer and civil society organisations, the data protection authorities and the article 29 Data Protection Working Party in the implementation process. The Commission will assess progress in this area by the end of 2011, with a further discussion with stakeholders to take place in 2012.
4. Timely and correct implementation of the revised provisions in the ePrivacy Directive by Member States into national law is essential. On 18 July, infringement cases have been opened against 20 Member States which had not notified the Commission of measures transposing the revised regulatory framework, including the amendments to the ePrivacy Directive. The Commission presented Member States with a guidance paper, made public in December 2010, on the revised provisions on cookies, focusing on information and consent. The Commission will continue to work with the Member States via the Communications Committee. If no quick progress is made, the Commission will not hesitate to employ all available means to ensure citizens' rights to privacy.
-  http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/11/461
-  http://circa.europa.eu/Public/irc/infso/cocom1/library?l=/public_documents_2010/cocom10-34_guidance/_EN_1.0_&a=d
OJ C 146 E, 24/05/2012