What is the new EU cookie law and what does it mean for my website?
As of the 26th May, a new law will come into effect which will mean that all UK websites should gain the consent of visitors to serve them with web cookies.
What does this mean?
Well, to the general public, not a lot, as many people don’t even know what a cookie is and if they’re aware of them, they’re suspicious. In fact, according to a recent consumer survey by Econsultancy, only 31% of consumers know what cookies are and what they’re for. In addition, the same survey reveals that only 23% of consumers are happy for a site to set cookies when they visit.
So what are cookies then?
What does the new law say?
In basic terms, the new ‘Cookie Law’ says that by 26th May 2012, all websites in the UK must ask visitors for permission to collect information about them to maintain privacy. Compliant sites will have some sort of opt-in feature that appears when they land on the site, such as a pop-up or a banner. It should ideally explain what a cookie is, and that they can opt-in to them being enabled, if they aren’t already. Visitors can also block a site from appearing in their search results.
There are a few small exceptions in the law. One such exception allows e-commerce sites to place cookies on your computer without consent, but only to enable shopping cart functionality which would cease to function without cookies.
Does this apply to my site?
What should I do now?
Don’t assume your web designer will sort this out for you automatically – as a website owner it is your responsibility to comply with the law.
What if I don’t want to comply?
The new law is almost universally unpopular among website owners, who worry that displaying a privacy warning on their website will scare visitors off, and who are extremely concerned at the prospect of losing a lot of their Google Analytics data – if a large percentage of users opt out of accepting your cookies, you will lose a lot of valuable visitor information. If you wish to make your views known on the Cookie Law, have a look at this video and consider signing the online petition.