As of the 26/05/2011, the UK laws based on the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive require websites to obtain visitors consent to store cookies*. According to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), website owners that make no effort to comply could face sanctions.
What does this mean for your website?
Fortunately, everyone has a year to comply. Currently the law allows cookies that are needed in the course of business eg. remembering what has been added to a basket in order to complete a transaction.
By May 2012, you have to be seen to have taken action. This exemption is to also allow a technical solution to be provided by browser companies within the settings of the browser itself.
Efforts to show that you have taken steps to comply may include:
Our view on this new directive
- Adding a pop-up to websites to confirm users consent to cookies
- Adding cookie consent into terms and conditions that users agree to when registering with a site
- Or in an interesting loop hole as pointed out by the culture minister Ed Vaizey, consent can be given after or during processing of an order for example (such as clicking the “submit order” button.) There is not a specific requirement to give prior consent.
There’s a LOT of discussion about the implications of this directive in the online community. Cookies are an essential part of running a website and giving customers the best online browsing experience. It is interesting that a suggestion from the ICO is to use pop-ups to gain consent as we all know how much everyone enjoys pop-ups when browsing. See Dave Naylors
take on this.
The directive overlooks the issue that the majority of cookies are not used to individually identify visitors on a site for sinister purposes but to improve customer relationships and experience by giving customers targeted content (i.e. something that they are interested in) and an improved website for them to browse / purchase from because the owner understands how visitors interact with their website. Yes, the end goal for the website owner is to make more money, but why shouldn’t they if they are providing a good customer experience?
Because this is such a hot issue politically, we won’t be surprised to see more changes put into place over the course of the year. In the meantime, we recommend you review your current website terms and conditions to ensure that your cookies policy is clear.
We will keep you posted...
* What are cookies?
Cookies are small pieces of information maintained by your web browser to enable websites to provide you with a more personal and/ or useful services such as storing items in your shopping basket, remembering what items you last looked at or retaining preferences on how a page is displayed.