EU Cookie Law – ePrivacy

Let me start by saying ‘what a mine field’, if you’re confused and no idea what is going on, trust me  you are not alone…..I shall try and bring some non technical explanations to what this law means.

But before I begin, you will notice that at the bottom of this page you will see a banner that is asking you to confirm the use of Cookies, this is what this entire article is about, so go on click on the “Allow Cookies” button and it will help you understand what the solution is to the problem you didn’t know you had!

What is a Cookie?

It is a piece of data that a website will give to your browser that, in most cases, will enhance your experience on a website. For example; you are shopping online and you are adding stuff to your cart then go to check out…well how did the checkout page know what you put in your cart as you visited lots of pages? It used a Cookies that said “they have bought this and this and this. Here you go checkout page now add it up and let them pay.”

However there are sites that will collect information via a cookie and use it to profile you and/or your activities online. For example, have you ever clicked on an advert and then you visit other sites over the next few days/weeks and keep getting presented the same ad for similar products? That’s because when you clicked on the ad it sets a Cookie to say “I am interested in things like this, please remember that” and you may then visit a site that says “have you got any Cookies here that can help target what adverts I show them”

Overview of what your legal obligation is

In May 2011 a new privacy law came into effect across the EU that requires a website user/visitor to give consent to most Cookies being set. The bit that covers this from the EU Directive is

“strictly necessary in order for the provider of an information society service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user to provide the service” 

so, it’s OK to set a Cookie if it is part of the functionality I have requested as a user i.e a shopping cart or to login, however if it is unrelated to something the user is doing on the site, then you should let them know.

The ICO (The Information Commissioner’s Office ) have given a grace period to website owners/operators to ensure they meet legal requirements by May 26th 2012.

It is law specific to protect the privacy of website users and can carry hefty fines between £1,000 and £500,000 and with around 92% of UK sites using Cookies and 13% surveyed by the ICO knew how Cookies worked, it’s potentially a big problem.

What are my options?

1. Get rid of all Cookies on your site. As most analytics use Cookies as do carts and login type functionality, removing them is just not an option.

2. Alert customers you are using Cookies and get them to agree to the use of them. You can get your website developers to do this or use a solution similar to the one we provide.

3. Ignore it and run the risk of getting a fine.

My Opinion

It’s the 16th May 2012, so 10 days left until the grace period is over, and I have just got off the phone to  the ICO again and as helpful and polite as they are, they are still unable to definately say which Cookies are acceptable and which aren’t. On the 26th of May they are launching a system where people can submit a site to them for it to then be assessed to whether there needs to be action taken to come inline with current law.

By their own admission the ICO use Cookies on their website and have some that are hard coded into their Content Management System that they are unable to remove, so I think they will be understanding of people on the learning curve.

My view from a lot of reading and research over the last year is simple…show due diligence.

Demonstrate you have identified which Cookies you use on your site and communicate to your visitors what they are and why you use them.

How we can help

We have created a package where for a one off fee, we will produce you a report to show what Cookies are being used on your site, then provide a snippet of code that you (or your web developer) puts into your site that will produce a pop up similar to the one here.  It will ask visitors to opt in to your Cookie policy.

£49+VAT one off fee. Call James on 0845 363 7082 or email

Note: All  information provided here is for information purposes only. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.