The truth about the EU cookie law

You might have noticed corners or panels appearing on many websites recently, inviting you to accept or opt out of cookies. (Cookies are little bits of data that live on your hard drive).

Most websites use cookies, even if just to capture site statistics and analytics. The warnings have been added because the EU, in their infinite wisdom, decided that everyone had to proactively decide whether to allow websites to store cookies.

They warned of fines up to £500K for non-compliance with effect from May this year. They also said they would be unlikely to fine anyone who could prove they were working towards compliance (reading this article might count).

The trouble is, in order for a website to know whether its visitors want cookies or not, it has to store a cookie. The other problem is that simple web hosting packages would need a costly upgrade to include a database to store cookie preferences.

So, at the last minute, the EU changed the guidelines. Instead of site visitors having to opt in or out of cookies, site owners can now ‘presume consent’.

To be on the safe side you may wish to add a message on your site e.g. “This site uses cookies. All data collected is anonymous. If you’d prefer to opt out, you can change your browser settings. Find out more at allaboutcookies.org.”

That’s how the cookie (law) crumbles!

2 Responses to The truth about the EU cookie law

  1. Jeremy Walker September 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    You’re on firmer ground than Kelvin MacKenzie with that headline Jackie:) We’ve added extra privacy guidelines to some of our sites for now, but otherwise so much ado ’bout nothing – waiting to see whether the current directives will be extended in future.

    • jackiebarrie September 29, 2012 at 8:09 am #

      Thanks Jeremy. We’re of the same mind! In fact, I nearly included the phrase ‘much ado about nothing’ in the article. Despite all that panic in May, most site owners haven’t done anything about it, as far as I can tell. I can’t imagine they will all be prosecuted.

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