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Google turns cookie monster on AdSense, DoubleClick clients

'Just do what the EU wants and no-one will get hurt' suggests Mountain View

Google has warned its AdSense and DoubleClick customers to sort out their cookie tracking policies before the European Commission gets pissy with them.

In a blog post published on Monday (July 27) by Jason Woloz, the Chocolate Factory’s security and privacy programme manager for display and video ads, the search monster said that, in compliance with EU privacy laws, it was making “certain changes affecting our own products and partners using Google products.”

In short, this means that publishers must ask site visitors for permission before setting cookies on their computers. This has long been enshrined in Europe’s ePrivacy Directive, which requires websites to get consent which is “informed, specific, freely given and must constitute a real indication of the individual's wishes.”

Now, in response to pressure from the commission, Google is implementing its own policy and reminding customers that this rule applies to anyone targeting EU traffic. “If your websites are getting visitors from any of the countries in the European Union, you must comply with the EU user consent policy. We recommend you start working on a policy-compliant user consent mechanism today,” said Woloz.

Google points customers in the direction of multiple sites to help with this tricky “user consent” issue, but stops short of writing the text for them. This, it says, is because “publisher sites and laws across countries vary", adding "we're unable to suggest specific privacy policy language”.

However, Google’s support forum does spell out a lot of the hoops publishers should jump through before tracking users’ data, suggesting that they “notify site visitors of the third-party vendors and ad networks serving ads on your site; provide links to the appropriate vendor and ad network websites; inform users that they may visit those websites to opt out of the use of cookies; or direct users to opt out of some third-party vendor's use of cookies for interest-based advertising by visiting”

The blog post also recommends IAB Europe (PDF), the Network Advertising Initiative and Google’s own advice at Cookie Choices.

Customers have until 30 September to comply. We’re still waiting for Google to tell us what will happen if they don’t. ®

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