EU Cookie Law: What It Means For You

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Earlier this year UK websites were given a deadline of the 26th May 2011 to implement the required changes to comply with the new EU Cookie Law (i.e. the Privacy and Communications Directive) – a legislative law to help protect user’s information online.

The changes required were to involve the option to browse websites without cookies – a text file that helps organise and store browsing information. However, many web development companies, IT consultants and specialists commented that this is simply too big a change within the timelines especially since the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) gave no examples of what would be deemed a legally sufficient alternative.

Deferred For a Year

Because of the confusion surrounding the legal requirements and alternatives, it was announced on the day of the deadline that the EU Cookie Directive was to be deferred for a year to allow businesses to come up with a sufficient solution to the problems voiced by professionals across many industries.

One such problem was the use of cookies that did collect personal user information, but were actually used to assist a user navigate a website.  Examples of such use include:

  • Geo-Targeting
    Setting a cookie to store information on which country a user is best suited to/has chosen when visiting a multi-national website.
  • Sessions
    Cookies are used by websites to allow users to remain “logged in” to websites. This includes single session and 30 day sessions.

The Impact to Online Marketing

The main concern for digital marketing agencies was the high usage of visitor tracking software including Google Analytics – software that is reliant on “tracking cookies”. Without the placement of tracking cookies, it hinders the gathering of information – anonymously – in order to improve the user experience. Such information is used to highlight problems such as:

  • Exit Pages
  • Bounce Rates
  • Time On The Page

All of the above are used to improve websites thus creating a better user experience.

There have been many examples of how businesses have interpreted the law and their implemented solutions.  A common solution has involved the creation of a pop up box asking for consent to create the cookies on a user’s machine.  If the user chooses not to, then no cookies are created and programs such as Google Analytics are unable to track and collate useful user experience information.

As it stands, there is no fool-proof solution to limit the impact to both users and businesses, but the clock is counting down to 2012.


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