Public broadcaster closes off websites to privacy fans

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Screenshot of uitzendinggemist.nl with the cookie dialogue.

The website that the public broadcasters of the Netherlands use to display videos of programmes that have already been broadcast, Uitzending Gemist, has been locked down for visitors who refuse to accept Internet cookies.

A recent law stipulates that website owners must ask every visitor permission to store cookies. (Cookies are a web browser technology for storing small bits of data about a visitor.) The law does not say what a website owner should do if a visitor refuses cookies. Two options that spring to mind are to show a simplified website (typically without advertising) or to show no website at all.

Volkskrant quotes a spokes person of NPO, the organization running Uitzending Gemist, saying: “We are legally obliged to report how many people we reach, and cookies are important to this goal. This is why our websites and on-line videos can only be made accessible to those who accept cookies.”

The public broadcasters are paid from general taxes. OPTA, the government watchdog for telecom issues, has been leaning heavy on the owners of publicly funded websites lately. The agency stated that government organisations have to set the right example.

One commenter at Arnoud Engelfriet’s blog said (and in my opinion he or she is right): “A law that was enacted to protect consumers is now being used to hijack consumers. […] In my opinion the law was set up to give people an actual choice—to allow cookies or not. Forcing visitors to allow cookies (or else the site cannot be visited) is absurd.”

See also:

Disclaimer: 24 Oranges has yet to determine how to apply the cookie law without inconveniencing its visitors.

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