The change in legislation was prompted by a wide spread use of cross site visitor behaviour tracking cookies. These cookies allow websites to target their advertising based on your previous browsing activity, even if that activity took place on another site! For example you might search for 'shoes' on one website and then see lots of adverts for shoes popping up on several other sites you visit.
The law does distinguish between cookies which are essential for the purposes of making your website work, and cookies which exist for other purposes (most commonly for tracking visitors behaviour). In the case of cookies which are essential to the operation of your website the legislation allows for implied consent. This means that provided your website makes it clear that these cookies are being used, explicit consent is not required.
In the UK the Information Commissioner (ICO) is taking a relaxed approach to analytics cookies (e.g. Google Analytics). Their guidance is that analytics cookies are fairly unobtrusive and therefore, as long as you inform users about their use, explicit consent is not required.
Apart from a few lonely supporters the reaction from most website owners to this new legislation has been entirely negative. Many view it as an ill-conceived law that fails to appreciate the technical reasons for which many cookies are used. Many are holding out for a change in the legislation or for some kind of meta-solution from browser vendors and major web players like Google and Facebook.
However, irrespective of how individual website owners feel about the law, it is likely that as awareness of this issue grows website users will be more likely to trust and engage with companies that clearly demonstrate they are respecting their online privacy choices.
As a website owner, in order to achieve compliance with the law there are three things you must do:
If you would like to discuss the cookie compliance law and how it applies to your website please give us a call on 01509 852 188.
For further information you can read the Information Commissioner's advice (PDF - 400Kb).
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