The Cookie Law - Are You Legal?
by Bob Grant
Note : We've updated our advice since writing this article - UK Cookie Law Advice.
The Cookie Law (Regulation 6 of the UK Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 to give it its more formal title) is going to be enforced from the end of this month (May 2012). If you're based in the UK and run a website you're going to have to pay attention.
Why Is the Cookie Law Important?
Some Guidance at Last
The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) who are reponsible for the law haven't been very clear on the exact details which has left a lot of website owners very concerned about how to stay clear of the hefty fines. Luckily the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) have released a guide which gives a very clear explanation of how they see the law. Although the guide doesn't constitute legal advice it's an excellent starting point in making sure your website is okay. In fact David Evans at the ICO agreed the guide was a good starting point which is probably as close to a recommendation you're ever going to get from a government organisation.
So What Does It All Boil Down To?
The fourth group of cookies are the ones the law is really aimed at so if you're using any of these you need to pay close attention.
Category 1 Cookies - Strictly Necessary
Category 2 Cookies - Performance Cookies
This is the interesting category as it contains the cookies that people are most concerned about. The law was very unclear about web analytics cookies - for example the ones that make Google analytics work. Without these cookies it was going to be very difficult to measure your website performance and see what visitors were doing. The ICC has put analytics, advertising, affiliate tracking and Pay per Click cookies in here.
Category 3 Cookies - Functionality Cookies
These are cookies your website might use to remember user choices. They might be used to remember if a special message has been displayed, if the user has selected a different text size, information the user has typed in to pre-fill forms for them, etc.
Category 4 Cookies - Targeting Cookies or Advertising Cookies
These are the cookies the law is really aimed at stopping, or at least making sure the website user is fully aware they are being used. These tend to be used by advertising networks so that they can build up a picture of what you've been looking at on the web. If you've ever wondered how a website can suddenly display and advert for something you were looking at yesterday, now you know.
If your website is using this sort of technique you're going to have to get the user's permission.
Not so Bad after All
If you've got any concerns over this feel free to give me a call.
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