Oyez, oyez, roll up, roll up, come one and all. Web designers and developers across Europe – and, indeed, beyond – are cordially invited to speak up and have their say in a little piece of legislation which has, in its way, done more to unite opinion than a conference afterparty free bar: the EU Cookie Law.
The EU has opened up a public consultation into the ePrivacy directive, the catch-all piece of internet legislation which included what we now know as the cookie law. The consultation closes in July. While the EU has offered hints about ways they might want to reform the law (I’ll be writing about that later), those suggestions have resulted from a consultancy study. They have not resulted from hours of coding, development, or really any on-screen client-facing experience at all. This is where you come in. They are asking for your opinion and your experience. Your chance has finally arrived.
Now, here’s the thing. Government consultations are not the kind of thing you can do by filling out a form between tasks over a cup of coffee. In fact, they’re not the kind of thing you should be doing on your own at all. Responses require a lot of homework, a lot of thought, and a certain tone of official language. Additionally, they are not there for respondents to vent their spleen, grind an axe, or carry on a vendetta. Those responses will go straight into the bin, as will any outbursts of the ad-hominem batshittery that has hijacked constructive debate about the law up until now.
So how can we, as web designers and developers, have our say in the right way? I’m thrilled to announce that help is finally at hand. We finally have the chance to submit a group consultation response in the right way, through the right processes, using the right language. This response will be a measured synthesis of opinions and constructive suggestions, borne of your feedback and, if necessary, a mediated group discussion.
Excited? Interested? Read on.
To participate in the group consultation response you need to be a member of The Web Guild. This is a new, independent, and desperately needed initiative designed to help the web profession become a little bit more… well… professional. Membership is not a means of getting a token badge to stick in your footer. Potential members are vetted for their experience and standards, must provide references, a portfolio, and a publicly available CPD diary, and agree to work to a code of conduct. This is a means for true professionals to show their commitment to their craft, and needless to say, hobbyists and cowboys will not clear the vetting process. Interested? You can join here. It’s only fair to let you know that the joining process isn’t walk in the park; you will have to do a lot of homework. That’s the whole point.
But why do you need to be a member of The Web Guild to contribute to the consultation response? There are two reasons. The first is that governments are not keen on individual responses to consultations. While they are certainly permitted, they are, and can only ever be, one person’s personal opinion. (And you know what they say about opinions.) By contrast, a group consultation response, especially one from an industry body, carries the weight and voice of many committed professionals. The second reason is that The Web Guild understands the need to play the game by the EU’s rules. In advance of the consultation submission, they are registering as an organisation with the EU’s transparency register. They will, in other words, be acknowledged as an authoritative industry body speaking on behalf of their membership.
Now, you may be wondering – do we have an ulterior motive here? Are we steering those who participate in the consultation towards a particular conclusion, and are we only going to hear what we want to hear? The answer is an absolute no. Our goal for this exercise is to help the web profession do something which they have not done in twenty years of its existence: to show up at the table and to have a say in the laws that impact our craft.
As I have said (or tried to say) so many times, the web profession is stuck in the passive-aggressive cycle of failing to participate in the political process legislating our own work, then ranting and raving about the counterproductive results, and in our epic sulk, not bothering to negotiate for something better. Frankly, we need to grow up and get over ourselves. This consultation is the first step.
We may submit our consultation response and find our feedback noted but not adopted. And you know what? That’s great. At least we will be able to say we tried. We will be able to say, hand on heart, that we participated in the process the right way, following the right rules, using the proper dialogue. As an industry, we will have that experience under our belt to use in future consultations and policy processes.
So what’s next? For now, you can join the Web Guild and start thinking about constructive ways to get your opinion across. They’ll be sending out updates about the group consultation response throughout the spring and summer.
While you can view the consultation now, I would not recommend getting too obsessive about it for two reasons. One, it is a catch-all survey on a catch-all piece of legislation and only a few of the questions are relevant to our work. Second, if you’re new to the wonderful world of EU legislation, you’ll end up wanting to stab your laptop before we’ve even started. And it’s only Monday, so don’t do that.
I’m personally delighted that, after years of pushing the web law rock up a hill, I’ve found a great team to help get it over the top. Let’s do this.
About the author
Heather Burns is a digital law specialist in Glasgow, Scotland. She researches, writes, publishes, consults, and speaks extensively on internet laws and policies which affect the crafts of web design and development. She has been designing and developing web sites since 1997 and has been a professional web site designer since 2007. She holds a postgraduate certification in internet law and policy from the University of Strathclyde. Learn about hiring Heather to write, speak, or consult.