What is the cookie law?
On the 26th May 2012 EU Cookie Directive will come into force in the UK. To try to protect the privacy of internet users.
Cookies are small text files which contain data about a website and any interactions you’ve had with it, such as;
• If you’ve visited before.
• If you’ve asked to remain logged in.
• If you requested a certain text size.
They cannot carry viruses and they cannot personally identify you.
The directive says that any website using cookies must ask for ‘explicit consent’ from a user before a cookie is downloaded.
Non-compliance with the directive can carry a penalty of up to £500,000.
What kind of cookies are there?
First party cookies are only used by the website you are currently on. Such as analytical cookies or cookies to remember if you wanted a smaller text size.
Third party cookies are cookies being used by a website other than the website a user is on. Such as adverts or Facebook comment integration on another website.
There are also session cookies and persistent cookies. Session cookies only exist as long as a users browser is open. When the browser is shut the cookies are deleted.
Persistent cookies are stored on a users computer between browsing sessions. Examples of persistent cookies are Google Analytics, adverts or remembering you want to remain logged into a website.
What does the Cookie Directive say?
This means websites will require a pop up or a banner. Which a user will have to click on or tick a box to give their consent to cookies being used. The option to opt-out is not enough under the new law.
Some cookies are exempt and you won’t need to ask for permission for the use of these.
For a cookie to be considered exempt, it needs to be vital to the running of the website. Such as a cookie to remember what you have put in your online shopping cart.
All other cookies are not exempt and you must obtain consent from the user to use them.
Some people have argued that analytical tools should be considered exempt since they help companies to decide what works well, so they can improve their website and therefore the users experience.
At the moment though, analytical cookies are not exempt and you need to ask a user if they want to allow them to be used.
(It is possible to opt-out of being tracked by Google Analytics)
This also means that analytical tools will be inaccurate. As you will only be able to see data from people who allowed cookies to be used.
How can I make my website comply?
At the moment, steps towards compliance are quite wooly and unclear.
The government has said they don’t feel they need to explain what is necessary to comply;
“we do not think there is any rationale for Government to specify the technical measures needed to obtain consent.”.
The ICO suggests three steps for preparing for compliance;
“We advise you to now take the following steps:
1. Check what type of cookies and similar technologies you use and how you use
3. Decide what solution to obtain consent will be best in your circumstances.:”
While the ICO’s website has a banner at the top of its website asking for consent, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), who wrote the UK version of the Cookie Law, are not using a pop-up or a banner. Their website instead uses a more prominent cookie and privacy page.
Most companies appear to be adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude and are planning on leaving compliance as late as possible so they don’t lose out on traffic.
Check back next week for some tips on compliance with examples from a few brands who are complying.
If you have any questions in the mean time, leave a comment and we will get back to you right away.
You can also find more information on the ICO’s website.
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