Risks And Benefits Of Cookie Walls And Monetization Of Personal Data

Risks And Benefits Of Cookie Walls And Monetization Of Personal Data

Anyone who has recently happened upon the website of any of the leading newspapers has found themselves faced with a pop-up never seen before, with which the editorial staff puts users in front of a choice to access the contents: accept profiling cookies or sign up for a subscription. This kind of cookie wall prompted the Privacy Guarantor to open an investigation to judge its legitimacy.

What Are Cookie Walls? 

Cookie walls are a form of login mechanism that requires users to agree to the site owner’s data collection and use. One of the objectives is the monetization of personal data, which the GDPR defines as « any transformation of personal data into a form that permits the use of such data to generate revenue for data controllers.» It is, therefore, a way to profit from the user’s data.

Benefits And Risks Of Cookie Walls

A cookie wall is an effective way for site managers to monetize their content. It allows data to be collected on users and used for advertising or commercial purposes, thus generating revenue. The same data can also be sold to third parties. However, site managers can also earn if the user refuses cookies and decides to subscribe to access the content. Accepting profiling has advantages for users, too: it allows access to blocked content and personalized advertising content and messages. In other words, cookies can improve the user experience.

However, they can generate some privacy issues. First, collecting personal data without the user’s explicit consent violates the GDPR, and the fines for such violations are very high. Then, users may feel obliged to accept cookies, as if they had no choice but to use the site’s services. Finally, cookie walls can constitute a form of social exclusion, as some users would not be able to subscribe to the alternative subscription and, therefore, would be denied access to content on a discriminatory basis.

The Reference Standards

When it comes to cookie walls, the primary reference is the European Directive 2002/58/EC, better known as the ePrivacy Directive, which establishes the rules on the protection of personal data in electronic communication services to guarantee all citizens Europeans the confidentiality of communications. According to this Directive, it is necessary for users to be informed about the use of cookies and to give their express consent to the processing of personal data.

Consequently, the site managers have applied the most innovative techniques to obtain this consent, prompting the personal data protection authorities to intervene by imposing a ban on deceptive methods. The cookie wall has become the most popular solution since backing remains free, but, at the same time, it is almost an obligatory choice for anyone who wants to access the contents.

What The GDPR Says

About the GDPR, since the use of cookies is a processing of personal data, the site manager must provide users with the information required by the Regulation itself and obtain consent to the use of cookies. This consent must be expressed in a specific and weighted way, i.e., without the application of forcing such as those present in cookie walls. Furthermore, the GDPR requires transparency in personal data use, and the user is always informed about who collects the data, for what purpose, and what destination will be. 

Although the GDPR is the point of reference for protecting privacy, it does not aim to limit the circulation of data. On the contrary, they are already on par. Three of the art. 1 of the Regulation establishes that: ” The free circulation of personal data in the Union cannot be limited or prohibited for reasons relating to the protection of natural persons about the processing of personal data. “

So Are Cookie Walls Legitimate Or Not?

According to the regulations, cookie walls are not expressly prohibited. However, if the user’s consent is obtained indirectly or by impairing his freedom of choice, the cookie wall is illegitimate. In short, site managers can use cookie walls to monetize their content, but it is necessary to ensure that users are informed about their use and freely consent. Furthermore, you must be able to withdraw this consent at any time. Ultimately, cookie walls can be an effective solution for monetizing content, but only if used in compliance with current regulations.

Also Read: Artificial Intelligence: What It Is And What It Offers To Companies

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