The Cookie Monster's Coming...Website Advice from Hunter Bevan
14th May 2012
... Comments

With the deadline for the European Union's Privacy and Communications Directive looming, how can you ensure your website is compliant with the new law that comes into effect on 26th May?

The so-called 'cookie law' actually came into force on 26 May 2011. This means that from 26 May 2012, websites marketing to the UK and the rest of Europe need to disclose if they are using cookies that are not 'strictly necessary' to the operation of the website and to ask visitors for permission to use those cookies. Website owners need to demonstrate that they are moving towards full compliance by disclosing what cookies are used on their sites and what they do, ask for consent to use cookies, allowing visitors to disable specific cookies if they wish. Cookies essential for the operation of the site, such as those used in shopping carts to remember what a visitor has bought, or security for online banking etc. and those that are removed automatically when you finish your web browsing session are the only ones exempt from the law.

So, what is a cookie...?
Cookies are small text files stored on your computer to make your web experience more personalised. Some website features may not work if you don't allow cookies to be stored on your computer. Cookies work in different ways - some, called 'session cookies' are deleted as soon as you close your browser, others stay on your computer to remember you next time you visit the site. Some cookies to allow you to track how people are using your site but do not give specific information about visitors (such as Google Analytics), so you can spot trends and improve the experience of using your site. Some third party cookies, such as those used by social media, may collect data to deliver content or advertising relevant to your interests when you visit other sites in future.

Ever noticed how, when you've been searching for a particular subject, ads on sites such as Facebook suddenly seem more relevant to your interests the next time you go to that site? It's that sharing of information without permission that the law is really intended to counter - but it's going to affect all website owners. The big question is will, and how, will it be policed?

An added burden for businesses...

Full compliance with the law means that you should:

    • Undertake an audit of cookies used on your sites
    • Let visitors know what those cookies do
    • Display an opt-in message before visitors enter the site giving them the option to allow or disable cookies. You must get consent before using any cookies.

This, of course, has a cost - not only in time and money to undertake the audit and implement the changes, but also in putting up another barrier before a visitor gets to the information on your website. Few websites appear to have made significant efforts towards compliance and even the 'big players' are not yet fully compliant. Many websites appear to be taking a 'wait and see' approach.

What we recommend you do now...

The Information Commissioner's Office has indicated that the most important thing is to 'take steps towards compliance'. Therefore, we suggest website owners at least:

    • Put a written plan in place to state your intention to comply and the process you will undertake to comply.
    • Make sure your Privacy Policy and Website Terms and Conditions are up to date and disclose what cookies are used on your site and what they are used for.
    • Inform visitors how they can disable cookies in their browser (although this may affect the operation of many sites).

We can add an overlay to your home page telling visitors about the directive and stating that your site uses cookies - and that they can be disabled using the visitors' own browser privacy settings, with a statement to say you are moving towards full compliance.

In our opinion (although this isn't to be taken in any way as legal advice!), this would be a first step to demonstrating a move towards compliance. You can then implement your plan accordingly as the industry comes to grips with the directive after 26th May.


To contact Hunter Bevan, call 01691 682566 or visit their website


About the Author

John W

Member since: 10th July 2012

A quick introduction - I'm John Waine, Director of TheBestOfOswestry. Having lived in this beautiful area for around 20 years now, I have decided to stay. :)

With kind thanks

Popular Categories