While Chris focuses on Something Creative for the Weekend, I will normally be discussing recent issues in the world of technology and all things web related. The geeky stuff.
In this post I want to lift the lid on all things Cookie related, specifically the new laws which come into force next week… according to Papertank, of course.
A cookie, for those who don’t know, is a piece of data stored on your computer which a website can access. They have been about since the mid-90s and are used by the majority of websites for user tracking (analytics – to see how many people visit your website), e-commerce (shopping cart items) and, in some cases, advertising.
Major browsers like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari give web users the ability to block cookies for all websites, a specific number of websites, or just advertising cookies. While most users choose to allow cookies, for web developers it is another check to perform in the website’s code – for example, warning users they need to enable cookies to use the shopping cart or login with their username/password.
The New Law – What Changes…
From May 2012, a new privacy law comes into effect across the EU. The law requires that websites ask users for consent to use most cookies, including those used for analytics and social media purposes.
Why the law makes sense
As web users ourselves, we fall victim to the sheer amount of information available about to you to advertisers, large organisations and even malicious websites. Many of you will be familiar with targeted advertising networks where products you have just searched for or recently visited are displayed on another website, enticing you with offers and related items. For the majority of people, this is an abuse of their privacy and abuse of their personal search history, something which people are uncomfortable with.
Why the law is ridiculous
Will Users Give Consent and Will Companies Comply?
Now that individual websites – rather than your web browser – ask for permission to store cookies, there will inevitably be a range of popups, dialogs, overlays and all sorts of methods used to try encourage the user to give their consent. When you ask yourself, would I click ‘Yes – I accept’ – the chances are, no.
As it stands, the implications and practical applications of this new law have yet to be fully explored or even understood. The government claims that failure to comply with the legislation could potentially result in a £500,000 fine, if a user complains. However, the ICO has assured businesses and developers that “it’s most unlikely that breaches of cookie requirements meet the requirement for monetary penalty”. This comes as a relief, but only really confuses the issue further – we will need to wait and see what happens next. In the meantime, we suggest everyone gets on the right side of the law… just incase.
At Papertank, we are doing some brainstorming and user testing to check which method of asking for the user’s acceptance works best. We are also in the process of advising our clients about the upcoming law change, what it means for them and what we will need to do. I wonder how many other web studios are following suit, and how many websites will ultimately change their website to comply with the new law?
Do you need help making sure your website complies with the new cookie law? Get in touch with us.