The Cookie Law May 2011

Published: Monday, 14 May 2012 in Industry News.

From May 2011 a new law came into effect that requires that websites to ask visitors for consent to use most web cookies.

What Are Coookies?

Cookies are an extremely common technology for remembering anything about a visitor between webpages - they are commonly used for login, remembering preferences, tracking visitors and suchlike.

The new law is aimed at protecting people's privacy. For example, if you searched Google for "printers, they may use a cookie to remember this.

Later on in the day, on another website, Google may target printer advertisements at you because they remember who you are.

Sound scary? It could be when you consider how many thousands of searches you do on Google, and how much information they have gathered about you as a result of this.

How Does it Affect Your Website?  The Implications of the Law.

Most small websites don't do this - but they frequently use cookies to track visitors on their website using tools such as Google Analytics. And many social media plugins  such as Facebook's ubiquitous LIKE button also use cookies to function.

Are all of these now illegal?! What does this mean for websites? Most  websites within the EU will need to change, or break the law. Over 92% of websites use cookies at the time of writing. They'll either have to stop using cookies, or start asking for permission to do so.

The trouble is, that to ask for permission, a website must interrupt their visitors - say, with an annoying popup message (you know the kind of thing – No one wants to add this to their website, and most visitors are unlikely to be happy about it either.

Another option is for websites could stop using cookies – but this could be very costly and seriously reduce the functionality of th site - and because cookies are so ubiquitous, this isn't easy. 

The Scope of Law

The law is based on the location of your organisation. For most small/medium organisations, being located in the EU will mean you must comply. As we understand it the location of your web hosting is irrelevant.

Some cookies are exempt from the law. For example, logging into a website, or adding contents to a shopping basket are examples of situations where the use of cookies is "strictly necessary for a service requested by a user".  What good would a shopping basket be if it forgot the products that you added to it from page to page? 


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