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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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