European Data Protection Board: cookie walls do not constitute valid consent

New guidance adopted by the EDPB which says cookie walls do not constitute valid consent, as the provision of the service relies on the data subject clicking the “Accept cookies” button.

The EDPB has adopted guidelines on consent under the GDPR, replacing previous guidance issued by the Article 29 Working Party. The majority of that guidance has been retained, but two sections have been updated:

  • the validity of consent provided by the data subject when interacting with so-called 'cookie walls' 
  • the guidance’s case study example 16 on scrolling and consent.

Conditionality

The guidance states that for consent to be freely given, access to services and functionalities must not be made conditional on the consent of a user to the storing of information, or gaining of access to information already stored, in the terminal equipment of a user (so called cookie walls). The guidance uses cookie walls as a case study and states:

"A website provider puts into place a script that will block content from being visible except for a request to accept cookies and the information about which cookies are being set and for what purposes data will be processed. There is no possibility to access the content without clicking on the “Accept cookies” button. Since the data subject is not presented with a genuine choice, its consent is not freely given. This does not constitute valid consent, as the provision of the service relies on the data subject clicking the “Accept cookies” button. It is not presented with a genuine choice."

Unambiguous indication of wishes

The GDPR is clear that consent requires a statement from the data subject or a clear affirmative act, which means that it must always be given through an active motion or declaration. It must be obvious that the data subject has consented to the particular processing.

Based on recital 32 of the GDPR, actions such as scrolling or swiping through a webpage or similar user activity will not under any circumstances satisfy the requirement of a clear and affirmative action: such actions may be difficult to distinguish from other activity or interaction by a user and therefore determining that an unambiguous consent has been obtained will also not be possible. Furthermore, in such a case, it will be difficult to provide a way for the user to withdraw consent in a manner that is as easy as granting it.

Published: 2020-05-11T10:00:00

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