The suit was filed by attorneys for Dr. Johnny Ryan, chief policy officer for Brave, who say such cookie walls violate GDPR regulations. According to the complaint, IAB Europe provides inadequate information about what a site visitor is consenting to, what data will be used and for what purpose, and how data rights can be exercised.
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One should not be forced to accept web-wide profiling by unknown companies as a condition of access to a website, said Ryan. This would be like Facebook preventing you from accessing the Newsfeed until you have clicked a button permitting it to share your data with Cambridge Analytica.
IAB Europe disagrees with Ryans allegations, calling it an ongoing PR campaign against the digital advertising industry. They also say his accusations are unfounded and inaccurate. IAB Europe promises to offer a full rebuttal to the complaints, but addressed the two primary accusations: (1) that they the way they obtain consent for cookies is unlawful, and (2) that IAB Europe doesnt provide appropriate guidance to support the digital advertising industry.
Heres what the cookie disclosure looks like on the IAB Europe site.
With regard to Ryans broader accusations regarding our position within the digital advertising industry, it is perhaps helpful to set these within the commercial context of his employers business. Their current model blocks ads served transparently by the partners a publisher chooses to monetize their content and instead injects their own ads, coercing a publisher to give up a share of their revenue in the process. As a result, it is in Ryans interest to position himself as an arbiter of privacy standards, said Mussard.
In contrast, IAB Europe is a not-for-profit organization that works closely with government, regulators and all parts of the digital advertising industry, to ensure regulation is fit-for-purpose and then implemented correctly. Whilst we will address these latest complaints in the appropriate manner, they will not distract us from this primary goal, Mussard concluded.
According to Media Post, Dutch authorities said in March that cookie walls are illegal, because permission is not given freely. People visiting sites with cookie walls do not have a choice if they want to access those websites. That regulation only applies in the Netherlands, however.
The battle between Johnny Ryan at Brave and IAB Europe is going to be an ugly one. Is Ryan personally upset that his data was or could be misused, or does this just underscore a point hes made before – that IAB Europe is not improving the digital advertising industry? Whatever the outcome, the issues raised by Ryan and IAB Europes response will set a precedent for future cases, at least in the European Union.