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Cookies in the tourism sector. Challenges and opportunities.

On January 11, 2024, the updated Guide on the use of cookies comes into effect, incorporating the Guidelines 03/2022 on deceptive patterns on social networks issued by the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) in February 2023. These guidelines bring significant changes to the regulation of the online world and have recently been integrated into the mentioned guide.

The recent update of the cookie guide by the European Union has created a stir in the business sector, especially in tourism, a sector that heavily depends on digital interaction with customers. However, far from being a threat, this new regulation can be an opportunity for tourism businesses.

What does the new cookie guide imply?

The new cookie guide establishes that companies must obtain explicit consent from users before installing cookies on their devices. This means that companies cannot assume consent through user inaction or pre-select options that allow the installation of cookies.

Transparency and consent are highlighted as fundamental aspects in cookie management according to the updated guide. Consent is established as the basis for regulatory compliance, and options to accept or reject cookies must be presented prominently and equitably in terms of accessibility. The guide provides specific examples of how these options should be presented in the user interface, including considerations on design and positioning.

Additionally, the importance of obtaining consent from parents or guardians for the processing of cookies in the case of minors under fourteen, especially on websites targeted at this demographic, is emphasized.

One of the key aspects addressed by the Guide is the handling of personalization cookies. Direct decisions made by users, such as language or currency selection, are considered technical cookies and do not require consent. However, if the publisher makes decisions about these cookies based on user information, clear information must be provided, and the option to explicitly accept or reject these cookies must be given.

The new version of the Guide also prohibits cookie walls, meaning access to specific services or features cannot be conditioned on cookie consent. Although not accepting cookies may limit access or use of the service, publishers must inform the user and provide an alternative access without requiring the use of cookies, although this alternative may not necessarily be free.

Finally, as a good practice, it is recommended to enable a floating button on the web to access the cookie settings panel at any time, thus allowing the user to change their consent intuitively and simply.

Impact on the tourism sector

The tourism sector, which heavily relies on online bookings and personalizing the user experience, could initially be affected by this regulation. Cookies are an essential tool for tracking user preferences, offering personalized ads, and facilitating the booking process.

Although at first glance it may seem that the new cookie guide poses an obstacle for tourism sector businesses, it actually offers an opportunity to improve the relationship with customers. By requesting explicit consent for cookies, businesses demonstrate respect for user privacy, which can strengthen customer trust.

Furthermore, by being transparent about the use of cookies, companies can encourage users to provide their consent by clearly explaining the benefits, such as a more personalized user experience.

It is crucial that entities affected by these regulations comply with these new EDPB criteria and guidelines and strengthen privacy protection online, while improving the user experience in making decisions related to cookies.

In an increasingly digital world, respect for user privacy is a valuable asset that can differentiate a company in a competitive market.

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Lawyer specialized in New Technologies and Regulatory Compliance. He develops and implements effective compliance programs, simplifying complex technical and legal issues into pragmatic strategies to help his clients successfully navigate the evolving legal and technological landscape.

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