EU Parliament Passes Opt-In Internet Privacy Bill

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A European Union Internet privacy bill that would require opt-in consent for commercial e-mail and cookies passed in the Parliament's 626-member assembly yesterday.

Though it might be difficult for the EU to enforce the bill outside its borders, it still has implications for all marketers, a Direct Marketing Association official said.

"Our view is that the EU is virtually going to close down a channel for business to reach potential customers," said Jerry Cerasale, DMA senior vice president of government affairs. "This doesn't make any sense, especially as we try to come out of a recession, and it's not just a U.S. recession; it's a worldwide recession."

The most controversial provision of the bill among the EU members would require Internet service providers and telecommunications companies to keep detailed records of consumers' Web surfing, e-mail, telephone, fax and pager communications for law enforcement and national security purposes.

According to Cerasale, the provision contradicts the rest of the bill.

"Here they are saying I can't send you an e-mail but the government can come find out exactly what Web sites you've gone to," he said.

Civil liberties groups and some Parliament members strongly opposed the data retention rules but the bill passed. Currently, EU companies are required to eliminate data after a billing cycle ends.

The bill still needs approval from each of the 15 EU governments to become law. It is unclear when those voting procedures will take place.

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