26 May 2012
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Guide to the Cookie Law

What is a Cookie?

Also known as browser cookies or tracking cookies, cookies are small, often encrypted text files, located in browser directories.  They are used by web developers to help users navigate their websites efficiently and perform certain functions.  Due to their core role of enhancing/enabling usability or site processes, disabling cookies may prevent users from using certain websites.

What is the law?

Most websites these days use cookies, these are extremely common tools used for remembering information about a vistor to your website. for example when you are login in to a website, remember preferences and tracking information.

The new law is intended to help protect  people’s privacy. For  example, if you search for “cars” in Google, they  uses cookies to  remember this. Later in the day, on another website,  Google may target  car ads at you because they remember who you are. This  might not sound  too scary until you think how many thousands of  searches you do on  Google, and how much they probably know about you as a result.

The vast majority of small websites don’t do this of course,  but  they do track visitors to their website, e.g. via a tool like Google   Analytics, and they use social media plugins like Facebook Like   buttons. As we will see, this law appears to outlaw all of this   entirely.

What does this mean for websites?

Most EU websites will need to change, or break the law. Over 92% of websites use cookies at the moment. They’ll either have to stop using cookies, or start asking for permission.

No one wants to add this to their website, and most visitors are unlikely to be happy about it either.

There  are other solutions which we explore later, but they all have a    negative effect on the experience of a website. Websites could stop    using cookies, but generally only by losing some functionality on their    site – and because cookies are so ubiquitous, this isn’t easy.

Does this only affect websites hosted in the EU?

The  location of your hosting is irrelevant, but the location of your    organisation is not. Your organisation must fall within the legal    jurisdiction of the EU. Each member state has their own laws, which are    based on the same EU directive, but may differ slightly.

For most small/medium organisations, being located in the EU will mean you must comply.

Are all cookies affected?

The vast majority are – all cookies that are not “strictly necessary for a service requested by a user”.

The  law allows an exception for “strictly necessary” cookies, such   as those  used to remember when something has been added to a shopping   basket.  These cookies would be expected by the user implicitly for the   action  they requested to be carried out. Another example would be   login.

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