Active consent required for online tracking in EU

Per TechCrunch:

Europe’s top court has ruled that pre-checked consent boxes for dropping cookies are not legally valid.

Consent must be obtained prior to storing or accessing non-essential cookies, such as tracking cookies for targeted advertising. Consent cannot be implied or assumed.

For consent to cookies to be legally valid the court now says the user must be provided with some specific information on the tracking, namely: How long the cookie will operate, and who their data will be shared with.

It is a big win for users and privacy proponents, but not so much for advertisers and companies. The decision presents a stark difference between EU and US in terms of privacy and user protection. In the US, the FCC allows Internet Service Providers (ISP) to sell your information to advertisers even without your consent. I notice that the argument that if we facilitate businesses to grow, they will do the right things and benefits will trickle down to users is pretty popular in the US. The lack of trust in the government is palpable as well.

While the distrust in the government is valid, the belief that businesses will share wealth with consumers or employees is not practically proven. I haven’t seen any company that chooses consumers/employees over the bottom line. Have you?

Hence, with the latest decision, EU forces the hands of companies to care more about consumers and focus on innovation to grow, instead of just slacking off and preying on the end users.

I mentioned in the past that the three entities, namely business, consumers and governments, form a relationship that keeps one another honest. This case is an example of a government doing its job to protect the people that it is formed to

News Outlets and How NOT To Stand Up Paywalls

News websites generate revenue mostly through either subscriptions, contributions or ads. Some offer exclusive content via subscriptions such as Washington Post, some offer content for free such as cnbc, bbc and others operate as a hybrid, providing free access to most articles while holding out a select few for only subscribers.

To get readers to subscribe, you need to deliver not only great content, but also a pleasant user experience. TechCrunch has been particularly awful in this regard of late. As a frequent reader or at least I used to be, I am disappointed by their new approach. A short while ago, you could read TechCrunch with your adblock app on. Now, here is what you are greeted on the website

Unless you turn off your adblock or subscribe, you can’t even see what is available. Even Washington Post lets you see the homepage and only shows the paywall after you click on a specific article. But even after you turned off all ads blockers, the annoying message still shows up

Meanwhile, CNBC, which is another major business news outlet, takes a much more user-friendly approach with adblock

The design trick is aimed to implicitly persuade you to turn the blocker off, but you can certainly leave it on and continue reading CNBC articles.

Saigoneer, a news website that covers happenings in Vietnam, has a similar idea to CNBC, though the homepage is covered completely by this message. I turned ads blocker off a few times before I realized that clicking on the black bar will allow me to continue reading it freely.

Or news outlets can just follow what The Guardian does: offer content for free and ask nicely for contribution

Here is the success that The Guardian had from their approach

Today the Guardian has 650,000 regular paying members, 360,000 of which are recurring paying members and 290,000 pay for print papers and digital memberships, according to the publisher. In the last year, it received more than 364,000 single contributions from around 318,000 contributors. In the last three years, the title received 1 million paid donations — a mix of one-offs, recurring paying members, and print sales.

Source: Digiday

In short, I hope that whatever TechCrunch is trying to do has been working for them. Personally, I became frustrated with their paywall and since their free articles are available on other news channels anyway, I have frequented to other websites more and abandoned what used to be one of my favorite sites.