As of 26th of May 2012, it became law that any UK website must get “explicit consent” from a website visitor for permission to upload and use “cookies” on their computer. In other words if you are using cookies on your website, you have to make it clear to the visitor that cookies will be used.
This new “Cookie Law” is an extension of the privacy laws that are currently in place and with which every website/business should comply.
So what are cookies?
A cookie is a small text “file” that is passed to your web-browser from a website you visit . They are typically used to help identify one visitor from another so that a website can give a better “experience” to individual visitors. For example, if you go to the BBC website and check out the weather and ask it to remember your location, it will install a cookie on your browser so that the BBC website can bring up the relevant forecast for you.
Other uses for cookies are to help track where you go within the website. This information can be passed onto tracking software like Google’s Analytics. Google Analytics is widely used and can be very helpful in aiding a website owner improve their website.
Cookies can also be used to help advertising companies to target adverts depending on what other websites you have visited.
Good Cookies vs Bad Cookies…
Most cookies are “Good Cookies”, their only mission in life it to try and help you get the best user experience from a website. This makes perfect sense, because if you have a website that people like to visit and come back to read more pages or buy more “stuff”, then you have a win-win situation. But…
Bad Cookies can be anything from annoying to downright dangerous… Most modern web-browsers will keep the really bad cookies out but there are others that are much more subtle.
The criminal internet world can be a very devious place indeed and this article on NetworkWorld goes into a little detail on cookie-forwarding and session-hijacking. By the way, NetworkWorld have a pop-up when you first visit and it sets a cookie so that when you next visit it remembers what you did with that pop-up (if you don’t block the pop-up in the first place!).
What should you do if your a website owner?
The law is actually a little “cloudy” as this is such a complex problem. There are so many websites out there that to try and police all of them is an almost impossible task. But you, as a responsible business owner, need to comply with the law and that means that you need to take steps towards safeguarding yourself and your business.
Digging into the specifics laid out by the ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office), the date of when this law became valid was moved from 26th May 2011 to 26th May 2012 to try and give time for website owners to implement the required changes.
Digging deeper, there is a change in the wording that modifies the “explicit consent” requirement to “Implied consent”. This can make implementing the law a little easier, but you still need to do a “cookie” audit and create a relevant (and easy to understand) page stating your cookie and privacy policies.
One of the main concerns about this law is that small businesses may not have the time or resources to read, understand and then implement the required work needed to conform to this law.
Free Cookie Audit
To claim your Free Cookie Audit, just click the link below and fill out the form and we will get your report back to you as soon as we can.