The EU Cookie Directive – in less than 500 words!

By Ben  |  29 Jun 2012, 09:00am  |  Category: Tips

There’s been a lot written over the last few months regarding the new EU cookie directive. I’ve seen some articles claiming that it’s the end of the internet and had panicked conversations with some of my clients who don’t really know what it is. But like most things, if you know the facts, it’s not scary at all.

Very briefly, the EU cookie directive is about being more transparent with consumers about how a website uses cookies and seeking their consent to use them. It’s really that simple. You provide consumers with clear information and provide the opportunity for them to consent.

Although the new law came into force at the end of May, you do not need to worry if you haven’t updated your website. Although the Information Commissioner’s Office – the organisation enforcing the directive -- want companies to be compliant, there is an understanding that often it won’t be the case. The whole process of becoming compliant is a difficult undertaking and it can take a long time to adapt to the new law.

And anyone who has not updated their website need not panic. If you are able to show steps have been taken to start the process or that there is a plan for doing so, then there will be no knock on the door or fines through the letter box. You can follow some simple steps to get your cookie policy up and running.

  • Understand the new directive. Visit the ICO website and watch Dave Evans’s interview on YouTube. It’s a great overview.
  • Start auditing your website. There are some tools that will allow you to do this without having the trawl through all your code and do it yourself.
  • Provide more user friendly info about cookies. Just be as transparent as possible. The ICO’s way is a nice and simple example or see our terms and conditions.

Regarding enforcement and the way the ICO will do this, there is the possibility of a non-compliance fine of up to £500,000. But from what I’ve read, their approach is not about iron fist enforcement. The real aim of the ICO is to help companies “achieve compliance” through less threatening enforcement notices and undertakings, outlining steps required for compliance when companies have breached the rules. You could say it is a consultative approach as opposed to a dictatorial one.

So there you have it. Hopefully this is a quick and easily digestible overview of the new cookie directive. Ultimately, it is now down to you, the owner of the website, to comply. If you follow some of the steps outlined above, you’re well on your way to doing so.

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