Cookie Wall: leave your data if you want to read newspapers for free

The investigation of the Italian Data Protection Authority (DPA) on the new filter systems put in place by many newspapers online continues at a fast pace.

In the last few months many web sites, in particular related to the TV and the news field, have decided to limit the access to their content through a preventive locking system which forces the user to decide whether to purchase a paid subscription (the so-called paywall) or, as an alternative to the subscription, to allow the installment of cookie and other personal data processing tools, including those of profiling (cookie wall).

In brief, the free access to the contents of the website is subjected to the release of the consent to the use of cookies.

Last October this practice caught the attention of the Italian DPA and it announced the starting of an investigation on the 21st October 2022 with a press release. On the same occasion, the Italian DPA stated that the use of these locking systems was not excluded “as a general rule” by the European regulation on personal data. Nevertheless, the Italian DPA pointed out that the investigation would be conducted particularly to assess the effective compliance of these practices to the current legislation.

With a following press release of the 12th December 2022, it announced the involvement in the investigation of the major national editorial groups asking to clarify, in particular, the modalities of operation of the system at issue and the different types of choice at disposal of the user. The Italian DPA asked also to provide all the elements useful to prove that the regulation on the personal data protection has been observed, in particular with regards to the principles of fairness and transparency of the processing and to the fundamental requirements of the freedom of consent.

We only have to wait the outcome of the investigation conducted by the Italian DPA, but it can be stated that the possible approval of these practices would not only be limited to the application of a paywall or of a cookie wall, in itself and per se considered.

As a matter of facts, in all probability, the DPA will evaluate the lawfulness of the imposition of these systems worldwide, taking into consideration both the impact of the evaluations possibly carried out by the editorial groups and the criteria adopted to determine the price of the subscription, offered to the user as an alternative to the provision of consent.


Ilaria Feriti