New cookie law comes into force on 26th May. Are you ready?

You may or may not be aware that underneath all the pretty exterior of almost all of the websites on the internet, there are many intricate commercial cogs working away to make things go really smoothly. Most of the workings allow you to have a better, more engaging user experience, others don't quite fall in to this category as they help advertisers and other companies learn more about your online practices. Big brother, or in other words an EU Directive on Data Protection and Privacy in the Digital Age (AKA Directive 2002/58 on Privacy and Electronic Communications) has been published and states that there should be greater transparency on how information about users is handled. In particular concerning cookies and how prior consent is now required before they can be placed.

What is a Cookie

If you are familiar with this term, then please miss this bit out. A cookie is a small piece of text that is sometimes written to the users computer when they visit a web site or page. Generally, it holds nothing more than a unique identifier so that as a user makes their way through a site they can be identified. This is particularly useful when tracking the contents of a shopping cart. Other cookies hold information not for the benefit of the site or the user, but for companies that advertise on the site. They allow them, for example, to present adverts that are more closely related, in their minds, to your needs.

What needs to change

It is already possible to distinguish the difference between ordinary cookies and third-party cookies and to ask for some or all to be ignored by changing the preferences in your browser (Internet Explorer,Firefox, Google Chrome for example). However, these preferences can be difficult to find and understand. Also it may mean that a website may not be able to work as expected. It is for this reason that it has been decided that visitors to all websites should be made aware of the different cookies that are placed and to be able to accept or reject them i.e. to give their consent.

The bottom line

It is our view at TJS that transparency of websites is a good thing as it allows people to make informed decisions about what a website can do with their personal details in return for the service they may receive from that site. The process of making visitors to a site aware of this information is technically quite simple, but none-the-less, it will interrupt the user experience for a visitor and therefore should be introduced sensitively so as not to disrupt the site's objectives. The new law requires website owners operating websites within the EU to obtain consent from users prior to placing cookies on users' computers or devices. Whereas before, users were required to opt-out if they did not want to receive cookies; now they must opt-in. A limited exception exists for cookies deemed to be strictly necessary. In summary, the directive has already given companies a period of grace until the 26th May 2012 to make sure their site's comply with the law. We are ready to help you meet this deadline. The first step is for you to let us know that you'd like us to help. We will then review your site and let you know what is needed to comply and what it will cost. There is no cost for this review, so you will have all the information you need to know if you'd like to proceed. If we do implement the update, our anticipated costs, for most sites, will be between £175 and £250 per site. What you can do in the mean time is to make sure you have an up to date privacy agreement. If you don't have one, don't panic, we can help with that.