May 09 2002
The European Union has had a lengthy discussion about the protection of personal data in connection with electronic communication services. The aim is to create a free flow of personal data within the European Union while ensuring that this data is protected - irrespective of the technology used.
Commercial communication by email may take place in Sweden unless the recipient has opted out. There are disagreements as to whether this is wise. Among others, the Swedish Consumer Agency has advocated that Sweden should apply the opt-in system. This is mainly because it is believed to be the only effective method of preventing unsolicited commercial communications. According to the agency, persons carrying on electronic business activities are unlikely to check and respect opt-out registers.
The tendency within the European Union concerning commercial email also seems to favour the opt-in system. The institutions are trying to reach a compromise over these issues.
Regardless of the result of the negotiations between the EU institutions, the psychological effects of the extensive discussions regarding the Personal Data Protection Directive, and now cookies and commercial communication via email, should not be underestimated. Customers are now likely to show a greater interest in the use of personal data as a result of the debate concerning these issues. This will in turn lead to an increasing awareness as regards consent to the use of personal data. In this way Europe may follow the US trend of 'permission marketing', that is that commercial announcements will only be communicated to recipients who actively want to receive them.
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