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The UK Information Commissioner’s Office recently reported that it is continuing its review of website cookie banners. It had expressed concern late last year that these banners were not giving “fair choices” because they did not make it as easy for users to reject all advertising cookies as it was for users to accept all. The ICO reached out to 53 companies and has now indicated that it will be reaching out to more companies: 100 at a time. To conduct its review, it will run a hackathon this year to develop an AI tool to comb the web for “noncompliant” banners.

What does the ICO consider a noncompliant banner? In an August 2023 joint white paper with the Competition and Markets Authority, the entities cautioned companies against what it called “harmful nudges.” These included cookie banners that encouraged users to accept cookies that were not strictly necessary. The example it gave was a banner with only the choices “cookie settings” and “accept.”

Putting It Into Practice: This announcement is a reminder for companies that operate in the UK and use tracking tools to assist with targeted advertising to review their cookie banners. The white paper contains many examples of what the ICO will view as a non-compliant banner.