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Privacy legislation may put the heat on cookies

DESPITE a vote in the European Parliament earlier this week to defeat a ban on cookies, amendments to Australia’s Privacy Act mean there still may be implications for the data-collecting web tools.

A cookie is a text file located within a website used to store information about a visitor.

According to Internet Business Corporation managing director Richard Keeves, web developers placing cookies on their site to collect information on visitors’ browsing habits may be in contravention of privacy laws, which come into effect in December.

“One of the significant issues with cookies is that the individual who is visiting a website does not really know what information is being stored in a cookie. It’s up to the web developer to decide what information the cookie stores,” Mr Keeves said. He said that, under the privacy laws, web developers would need to disclose to visitors to their site the information they are collecting from them.

“To enforce those laws it’s almost going to be bordering on impossible and it will limit the e-commerce operations of companies affected by any legislation,” Mr Keeves said.

The Civil Liberties Council of WA says cookies were a non-issue because people could turn the cookie function off on their web browser if they were concerned with what information was being collected.

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