The EU Cookie Law – Does Your Website Comply?

Posted by on July 6, 2012 in eCommerce, Local Marketing | 0 comments

The EU Cookie Law – Does Your Website Comply?

26th May 2012 was a date many in the UK’s IT community weren’t looking forward to.It was the day that the grace period ended for the implemention of the so-called ‘EU Cookie Law”.

On 25th May 2011, the UK Government implemented European Union Directive in the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011. The Regulations require websites that leave non-essential ‘cookies’ on visitors’ devices to alert visitors of this and get acceptance from them.

But it gave a year for UK websites to comply.

So what’s a ‘cookie’? A ‘cookie’ is a small file, typically of letters and numbers, downloaded on to a device when the visitor accesses certain websites. Cookies are then sent back to originating website on each subsequent visit. They are useful because they allow a website to recognise a visitor’s device.

The Regulations apply to cookies and also to similar technologies for storing information. Most websites use them.

This law applies to both individuals and businesses based in the EU regardless of the nationality of their website’s visitors or the location of their web host. It is not enough to update your website’s terms and conditions or privacy policy.

However, not all other European Union countries have been as efficient as the UK in implementing the EU Cookie Law. Are British sites going to be at a disadvantage?

And another problem. The UK’s data protection agency, The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), indicated in the first two versions of its Guidance to website owners that the implied consent of the visitor to cookies would not be enough. This was the problem causing many in the IT community sleepless nights.

In its third version, published on 26th May 2012, it has now changed its position. This is sensible. Otherwise, websites would have become unworkable. Imagine if, everytime a website used a cookie, it had to notify the visitor and seek specific consent. It would be a nightmare for both the visitor and the website owner. But the EU Directive doesn’t specifically allowed implied consent. It will be interesting to see if the European Commission takes a test case to the European Court of Justice. I hope not. The British approach is a sensible one and a tougher regime will only hinder online trade in the EU.

If your website needs to be updated to tell visitors about cookies, please contact us for more information.

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