New Cookie Law Comes Into Effect Next Week

Added by Martin on 16th May 2012 in Latest News

How The Guardian Site Uses CookiesThe days of cookies surreptitiously tracking your every movement online should become a thing of the past.  On the 26th of May a European law comes into effect requiring all websites to get “explicit consent” before putting cookies on users computers.  Non-compliance carries stiff penalties – £500,000 to be precise – so ignoring the law is definitely not an option.

What is a cookie:

Cookies are text files containing small amounts of information which are downloaded to your device when you visit a website.   Cookies do lots of different jobs, like letting you navigate between pages efficiently, remembering your preferences, and generally improve the user experience. They can also help to ensure that adverts you see online are more relevant to you and your interests.

In total there are four categories of cookies

Category 1.  Essential cookies 

These cookies are essential in order to enable you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies services you have asked for, like shopping baskets or e-billing, cannot be provided.

Category 2.  Performance cookies

These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don’t collect information that identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works.

Category 3:  Functionality cookies

These cookies allow the website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you are in) and provide enhanced, more personal features. For instance, a website may be able to provide you with local weather reports or traffic news by storing in a cookie the region in which you are currently located. These cookies can also be used to remember changes you have made to text size, fonts and other parts of web pages that you can customise. They may also be used to provide services you have asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. The information these cookies collect may be anonymised and they cannot track your browsing activity on other websites.

Category 4:  Targeting cookies

These cookies are used to deliver adverts more relevant to you and your interests They are also used to limit the number of times you see an advertisement as well as help measure the effectiveness of the advertising campaign. They are usually placed by advertising networks with the website operator’s permission. They remember that you have visited a website and this information is shared with other organisations such as advertisers. Quite often targeting or advertising cookies will be linked to site functionality provided by the other organisation.   It is the over-use of these types of cookies by unscrupulous advertisers that has lead the EU to take action.

Corporate giants like BT have taken a proactive approach and made changes to their sites already.  We particularly like the way the user journey is designed to help consumers understand the benefits of the different cookies that can be planted on their PC.

BT Cookie Options
The implications of the legislation could be profound if a recent survey conducted by IMRG and eDigitalResearch is to be taken at face value.  According to their findings:

  • 89{6dae46da24e999607385e9be7950c1d4589f4b4e796c45b1daf9b427a72e91a2} of respondents believe the EU cookie law is a positive step towards protecting online privacy
  • 33{6dae46da24e999607385e9be7950c1d4589f4b4e796c45b1daf9b427a72e91a2} believe cookies may be used for viruses in Trojans
  • 77{6dae46da24e999607385e9be7950c1d4589f4b4e796c45b1daf9b427a72e91a2} of consumers object to cookies

The last point is particularly alarming – however it’s our conviction that its just a fear of the unknown.  The same study found that 79{6dae46da24e999607385e9be7950c1d4589f4b4e796c45b1daf9b427a72e91a2} of respondents believe changes are needed to address the lack of public knowledge about cookies.

For more details on the steps you need to take to be comply with the new law, feel free to contact our Usability team on 01254 279998.

Added by Martin on 16th May 2012 in Latest News