Cookie law makes most UK websites illegal

If you need convincing, you can find the official ICO guidelines here.

The following is a simple humorous video outlining the new law.

What are cookies?

Cookies are small files that websites place on visitors’ computers, that usually store values that are unique to an individual visitor. They enable your browser to exchange information with the website server, and can be used for essential purposes (such as remembering you’ve logged in to a site), or optional purposes (such as for website analytics purposes). If you would like more information regarding cookies visit All About Cookies.

Can I turn off cookies in my browser?

All modern browsers have the ability for a user to change their settings concerning cookies, and block websites from storing cookies on their machines. For example in Firefox on a Mac: Firefox > Preferences > Privacy Tab > History: Firefox will: use custom settings for history > make your selects here.

Previously, the law said if your website does store cookies, you need to let your users know why you store cookies, and give them clear instructions on how to ‘opt out’ if they objected. Many websites did this by writing a privacy policy. The new law however ignores the settings you currently have set in your browser and requires you to opt-in to every website you visit to allow them to save cookies to your computer.

Are all cookies affected?

All cookies that are not “strictly necessary for a service requested by a user” are affected.

For example, if a user adds an item to their shopping basket, that would be considered necessary – a cookie is technically required to remember that user and retain their basket contents. Similarly, to log in to a website a cookie may be necessary. On the flip side a cookie which was set to welcome a user back to a website, or to record what pages they view would not be strictly necessary.

So now what?

All site owners who save cookies (thats 92% of sites) have until May 2012 to comply to the law unless you want to be fined.

There are a couple of solutions. For example if your site requires registration to use it, all you really need to do is add a clause to your ToS, thus the user needs to accept the use of cookies to gain access to your site. Or for example if your site runs on WordPress you can use this plugin (for a £10 fee). Or if your site only uses Google Analytics then there is this jquery solution (FREE). But of course over the next 12 months many other solutions will become available.

 

Further reading: http://www.cookiecrunch.co.uk/

Official resources

One Response

  1. spelletjes says:

    We face the same problems in Holland at this moment.. Arghh! :(

 

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