General

The European Union Cookie Law

Written by WSI
― 13 June 2011

Did you know, that on the 28th May 2011 a new Law came into force which made your website illegal? The EU cookie law which affects all websites who operate within the EU and more specifically for us, the UK. The cookie law will require all websites to gain permission if they wish to use […]

Did you know, that on the 28th May 2011 a new Law came into force which made your website illegal? The EU cookie law which affects all websites who operate within the EU and more specifically for us, the UK.

The cookie law will require all websites to gain permission if they wish to use a users’ cookies. But how are they going to do so? Well, the most likely option is, by gaining permission from the user to use their cookies. But, it will not be easy to gain access to a users’ cookies without an intrusive question, which they may answer no to. The other option is to not use cookies, however, this may not be as simple as it sounds, the software is not really available to do so, and certain parts of websites need cookies so they can run. The final option is of course to ignore the law and it is conceivable that many thousands if not hundreds of thousands of websites will choose this option and face no real punishment.

Would you agree to letting a website use your cookies? Do you even know what a cookie is? A cookie is a simple text string which as a very simple explanation, remembers who you are and what you have looked at.

The websites which will be most affected will be those in the public sector, they are obliged to follow the law.

The biggest losers?  The new EU Cookie law could have a devastating effect on the majority of analytics and targeted advertising services. Analytics are an essential part of any website, it can tell you how long someone spent on your website and which search terms provided the most conversions, however, this is impossible without cookies, and the only way for a website to track a user will be by asking them directly if they can use cookies, this will undoubtedly lead to inaccurate data, as what percentage of users would actually allow it?

Targeted advertising could take the biggest hit. A website which uses advertising space actually utilises your cookies to show you adverts which are most relevant to you, these are sometimes from websites you’ve previously used and even products you’ve recently looked at. If advertisers are unable to use highly targeted advertising, they will probably think it will be wasted advertising, and stop advertising altogether on other websites as there is no guarantee the people who will see the ads will have even the slightest bit of interest in them. Of course, there could be knock on effects, some internet services such as Google, YouTube and others all use advertising as a way of funding the website, ensuring it remains free for its’ customers, if they cannot get revenue from advertising, they will most likely have to charge for their services, free services which we possibly use every day.

It is estimated that the new law has made around 92% of websites illegal, but relax, action on the law will not take place until May 2012. This is believed to be due to the lack of warning and poorly communicated guidelines by the UK Government. The UK Government copied the EU directive and added no specific guidance or expansion on key points, leading to the confusing law.

We wonder, just to what extent  the EU Cookie law will actually be enforced, and how it stringently it will be regulated. In principle, the new law could effectively change the internet as we know it. But at this stage, it is impossible to know exactly how it will change as many people are still unsure of how the law will affect them.

The farcical side to the new cookie law – So, you go onto a website, it asks you, may we use your cookies? You say no, and if you don’t click ‘remember’ by the time you go to the next page the website will have forgotten that you said no in the first place and ask you again, decreasing the users goodwill towards the website.

Fines are set to a maximum of £500,000 although, it is believed that small businesses will not face any action for not subscribing to the new law, but that makes you wonder, what is the point of a new law if so many will be allowed to break it?

If you would like to see if your website is legal or illegal, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will run a Cookie test on your website using our WebScan software. WSI Northern Ireland Internet Consultants 028 9048 0257 or info@wsidigitalweb.co.uk

Privacy and Terms | Designed in Belfast | Web Design Belfast Rated 5/5 based on 24 reviews | WSI Digital Web Arthur House, Arthur St, Belfast BT1 4GB Northern Ireland. 028 9048 0257