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Visiting health websites safely

The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has requested several medical websites to stop storing and accessing information through cookies and similar techniques without user consent. The Dutch Consumers’ Association (Consumentenbond) had established that this was being done by websites with information about diseases, addictions, and general health issues. Websites are not allowed to store cookies that record a user’s browsing behavior without the user’s consent. They are required to ask users for their consent. These rules apply to all websites, but privacy is an even more delicate issue for health websites. The websites that were investigated by ACM are now in compliance with the law.

Rules regarding cookies

There are different kinds of cookies. Functional cookies may be stored without consent, because a website cannot function without them. Analytical cookies may be stored as long as they are limited in use and have minimal or no consequences for the privacy of visitors. For the storage of all other cookies, website owners must ask a visitor’s consent.

Together with the Dutch Consumers’ Association, ACM has been able to achieve this outcome. Consumers should be able to surf online safely.