Friday, May 25, 2012

Dealing with the new cookie directive

A year after it was first announced and this weekend sees the deadline for businesses to implement the new law governing use of cookies on their websites. From Sunday onwards, all sites will be required to obtain informed consent from visitors before saving cookies onto a machine.

Just to refresh our memories, what exactly is a cookie? To put it simply, they’re pieces of personal data that are stored when users browse the internet. They’re often used for the sakes of remembering user names and passwords, targeted advertising or analytics and so on. The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) breaks them down into three categories;

Session Cookies

These are short term cookies, usually only lasting during a single browser setting, they might be used for example by an online bank, and then forgotten when the browser is closed and the session ended. These are deemed to be less intrusive as they are only stored for a short period.

Persistent Cookies

These last much longer, and are remembered between sessions. They might be used by a browser to remember login details for a website, or by marketers to make use of target advertising.

First &Third Party Cookies

First party cookies are set by a site being visited and usually relate to web analytics. Third party cookies are issued by a server different to the website currently being visited, for example it might be used in third party advertising to target advertise through banners or adspace on a site.

The new legislation is aimed at tackling privacy issues, which relate to the growing use of cookies by websites without the user realising it. As briefly summed up by our Technical Director last year when the legislation first came out;

  • Tracking cookies need permission before they can be used. 
  • Session cookies and “remember my login” cookies are okay. 
  • So basically, consent is required when the cookie is not required for a service.

The ICO has been decidedly vague about how exactly businesses should go about informing their visitors about cookies. On the plus side, this means that businesses are free to analyse their site and look at how best to interpret the new regulations to suit their audience and website. However on the negative side, it also means that some businesses are throwing themselves into it in such a way that it might have a negative knock on effect.

Many sites still have yet to adopt the new ruling; even the government has admitted it won’t be up to speed by the time the deadline ticks over. Fortunately it seems the ICO has no plans to chase rogues straight away, instead they are hoping companies will become more focused finding the most suitable form of implementation.

We’re already helping our clients with work on meeting the new cookie legislation, so if it’s something your business is keen to look into, why not come in for a consultation or talk to our Sales Team about how we can help you out.

Author: Alice Cheetham


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