Have you noticed anything lately at the top or bottom of websites? Not sure what I am talking about? Take a look here. What do you see? It’s an Internet cookie notice required by the EU Cookie Law.
What on earth are Internet cookies?
They are small text files automatically placed on your computer or device when you browse a website. They are used for tracking a user’s activity on a website. Some cookies are needed for a website to function; however many are non-essential e.g. used for advertising (e.g. interest-based ads), online analytics, etc.
Still don’t get it? Ok, here’s a simple explanation:
AB goes to xyzofficesuppliesstore.com to browse office supplies. AB leaves that website and goes somewhere else. However, on a website that has ads displayed, AB begins to see ads showing xyzofficesuppliesstore.com products and is baffled and says: “how come all I see now are ads about xyzofficesuppliesstore.com products and current promotions?” In a nutshell, when AB browsed xyzofficesuppliesstore.com, cookies (small text files) were automatically placed on his computer.
What does the e-Privacy Directive (a.k.a EU Cookie Law) say?
Under this law, websites are to be cookie-compliant or be fined up to £500,000 and it states that:
Article 5(3) – “Member states shall ensure that the storing of information, or the gaining of access to information already stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user is only allowed on condition that the subscriber or user concerned has given his or her consent, having been provided with clear and comprehensive information, in accordance with [the Data Protection] Directive 95/46/EC, inter alia about the purposes of the processing.”
Simple English Cookie Law explanation:
Websites cannot leave non-essential cookies on your computer or device without your consent; and for you to decide whether you want to continue browsing or not, clear and concise reasons for storing your information must be given. In other words, do not track online activity without consent.
What are essential cookies?
When you shop online and add items to the cart and you move to the next session, cookies retain your info or items so you don’t have to enter them again. Those are essential for the online purchase experience. However, non-essential cookies are used mostly for advertising purposes, e.g. to track online behavior.
Does the Cookie Law apply only to those in the EU?
Is the cookie law a good or bad thing?
In my humble opinion, the question to ask is whether the cookie is necessary to provide the web service and to what extent will consumer’s info be used. If your information is going to be used for any reason, at least, you should be informed and given the opportunity to opt-out.
What should you do as a website owner to be cookie compliant?
- Have a cookie usage notice in a conspicuous place on your website that informs people that cookies are present; explain what they do (the purpose) and get their consent before you store it on their device.
- If your website is WordPress-based, you can upload and activate cookie plugins such as EU Cookie Law. Although this generates the required cookie notice with the opportunity to opt-out, it is just one step.
Do you have a well-written and cookie-compliant privacy statement for your website yet? Not sure about how to apply the cookie notice? Contact us.
Photo courtesy of stock.xchng
This blog post was first published in July 2012. Current privacy updates are being followed.