The new Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 took effect last weekend. This is a brief run-down of what it is, how it might affect you and what it means you’re your business.
“What’s so special about a cookie?”
Cookies are simple pieces of code necessary to make a things like internet shopping work properly. Many simple cookies (“session cookies”) delete themselves after the transaction is concluded. Others collect the data you input and pass it to third parties you have no knowledge of. These ‘third party’ cookies are used to drive behavioural advertising and often remain on your computer even if you try to delete them and are ‘resurrected’ each time you go online. It is these so-called “zombie” cookies that the new law is designed to address. The law also applies equally to flash cookies, bugs and web beacons.
“Why has the law changed?”
“How do We Comply?”
If your site uses lots of external advertising and so is likely to be using third party cookies, the “informed consent” part of the law becomes more onerous and you should describe the cookies in use and ask users to opt-in via a check box or similar.
“Ah, but we just design websites….”
The Information Commissioners guidance says “Companies who design and develop websites or other technologies for other people, must also carefully consider the requirements of these Regulations and make sure the systems they design allow their clients to comply with the law.” So no get-outs, no excuses. New websites must comply and existing sites must be made to.
The Information Commissioner has indicated that he will give a grace period for compliance, but this is not an reason for inaction. If you haven’t already done so, you must make your site compliant – this is not a zombie law, it will not go away and it will not self-destruct!
The Information Commissioner’s website www.ico.gov.uk has lots of information on the changes and Richard Beaumont of the Cookie Collective has published a useful article on this and cookie audits in the July issue of .Net magazine www.netmagazine.co.uk.
For more legal advice on the use and storage of cookies contact Joanne Frears on firstname.lastname@example.org