Your Website Could Already be Illegal!

On 26 May 2012 a new UK law has been passed following an EU directive that places strict responsibilities on website owners in respect of client-side cookies. It is estimated that 92% of websites use Cookies and as at 26 May 2012, more than 90% of websites are not compliant. In other words, most websites are breaking the law.

It is important to know what you have to do and this article is intended to give you as clear a picture as possible regarding this new law.

What Are Cookies?

Cookies are small text files that are created on your computer by your web browser when you visit some websites. it allows the website owner to store information about you on your computer and also to retrieve that information at a later date. It can be anything from a simple flag to record the fact that you have previously visited that website to an enormous file that records lots of private information that you have entered on that website previously.

It also allows websites to remember which web pages you have visited the most and allows them to target advertising based on your browsing behaviour.

Cookies stored on your computer may be stored by the website owner (first party cookies) or by another website which you have not visited (third party cookies).

Does my Website Use Cookies?

This is something you must ask your web designer. There are ways of checking but if you need to ask the question it is safest to ask an expert whether or not your website uses cookies.

What Must I Do?

The rules are rather vague but cookies can be split into two types.

There are strictly required cookies. An example of this is when you add something to a shopping cart. A cookie is created so that the website can remember what is in your cart. By adding an item to a cart it can be said that you have implied that you accept cookies because the action is not possible without them. These cookies can still be applied without permission.

The second type of cookies can have many purposes but which are not strictly required for the website to function. These can be tracking cookies to help measure user trends and behaviour or to help in targeting adverts. These types of cookie can no longer be applied without user permission.

Therefore, in order to be compliant, there are three things that we advise you do on your website:

  1. Add a cookie page to your website where you describe exactly what cookies your website uses and their exact purpose. I would even do this to explain you do not use cookies or to explain that all cookies are compulsory because they are strictly necessary.
  2. If your website uses cookies that are not strictly necessary then you need a function that prominently displays a request to seek permission for the user to use cookies on their devices. This should contain a link to a page that explains exactly what types of cookies you use and show the user how to opt in or out of cookies. YOur web designer should do this for you.

I am a Net Quality Customer - What Do I Do?

We are in the process of writing to all of our customers. You should receive this email soon. In that email we will explain exactly what cookies your website uses and what options are available to you.

What if I decide not to comply?

Many people have already not resolved to comply with this law because it is seen as unnecessary and places unfair burdens on EU businesses. However, it is possible that you could be fined up to £500,000.

The Government have indicated that they will use a softly-softly approach to begin with and will mainly offer advice in the early days.

We think now is the right time to make sure you comply and thus not run the risk of a hefty fine.

Please contact us if you would like any advice concerning cookies and your website.

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