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ICO Urges Proactive Compliance for Advertising Cookies Following Positive Response
February 12, 2024

In a recent update, Stephen Almond, Executive Director of Regulatory Risk at the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), underscores the significant strides made in achieving compliance with data protection laws regarding advertising cookies. Following a warning issued to 53 of the UK’s top websites last November, the ICO has received an overwhelmingly positive response.

Of the contacted organisations, 38 have already adjusted their cookie banners to align with regulations, with an additional four committing to compliance within the next month. Notably, some entities are exploring alternative strategies, such as contextual advertising and subscription models, with forthcoming guidance on implementing these approaches in accordance with data protection laws.

The ICO emphasises the importance of giving users a fair choice regarding consent for advertising cookies, particularly making it as easy to “reject all” advertising cookies as it is to “accept all” advertising cookies. Non-compliant organisations will face consequences for disregarding the regulations as the ICO extends its enforcement efforts beyond the initial 100 websites to include subsequent lists. Almond says:

“We expect all websites using advertising cookies or similar technologies to give people a fair choice over whether they consent to the use of such technologies. Where organisations continue to ignore the law, they can expect to face the consequences.

We will not stop with the top 100 websites. We are already preparing to write to the next 100 – and the 100 after that.”

To expedite compliance efforts, the ICO is developing an AI solution to identify websites with non-compliant cookie banners, with plans to host a hackathon event for further exploration. The message to all organisations is clear: take proactive steps towards compliance to avoid regulatory action.

With many organisations already making changes pre-emptively, a tangible ripple effect stems from the ICO’s intervention. Almond concludes by advising entities offering services to UK users to prioritise compliance before enforcement measures are enacted.

The ICO has published the original letter to enable all companies to see their advice, which you can access here: Letter to DPOs about cookie banner concerns

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