The EU has decided that in an attempt to protect users, all companies must acquire consent from visitors before storing cookies, and provide clear and coherent information regarding the cookies used. The law was actually passed a year ago, but it was difficult to implement so will not be enforced until 26th May 2012. If you just went “YIKES!” then read on!
Well, we can all argue the merits of the law and whether it benefits us at all, but lets first try and understand it. We are not lawyers and after speaking to a few that are equally as baffled, we thought we would venture out and try and get to the bottom of this. At this point our lawyer would be very happy if I advised, You, the reader, to get proper legal advice regarding Your options.
The legal part
The law requires all website owners to get consent from their website visitors before they can store or retrieve any information on their devices including computers, tablets and mobile devices.
The website must obtain explicit clarification before they can store information about users on their devices.
So if you, like many others, have grown tired of constantly being advertised to, fear not. The law is here to set everyone straight.
So what is the law trying to achieve?
After having lengthly discussions with everyone on our team, we felt that something had to happen. Data tracking and subsequently its usage to force feed the user, has on occasion gotten out of hand. Who knows what else the data may be used for.
The law is rather vague, and in our opinion that seems to be on purpose. It allows for everyone in the industry to try and work together and find an adequate solution.
Can I have a cookie?
We have established that cookies store your data, they are also crucial to the user experience when browsing the web. Take an e-commerce site for example. If I am shopping, I want Ocado, Amazon, ebuyer, and so on to recommend offers, alternatives, things I may have forgotten, or didn’t need until I saw it. My basket contents need to be stored, although I may not be asked to login straight away. If I do login, its fairly straight forward that I would then accept what that brand/shop/business wants to do with my details. This may be information such as personalisation options, search history, purchase history, log-in information, and browsing history.
Cookies are usually needed for a website to function. You can of course do without cookies but some are essential in todays world. The main issue at the moment is that the law does not make many exemptions, it only states that only cookies vital to the website may be exempt. Who knows what that means! Its does however make a lot of other things illegal. If you’re using website analytics software like Google Analytics, advertising networks, or e Commerce software then your site will most likely be using illegally crunchy, and scrumptiously yummy cookies to store user information.
But I love cookies, what now?
The bottom line is however that we need to comply. Someone out there will be made an example of and we dont want that to be any of our clients. Needless to say, the fines will most likely be massive. The main culprits on our site are third party components such as social media widgets like Twitter, and site admin tools such as Analytics.
What we hate about this law is that if we comply, we WILL LOSE BROWSING USERS. It’s a simple fact of life, people do not like change. People are definitely not used to messages on websites asking for consent. The messages are ugly, and scare people away. Especially when they can hit the back button on the browser and go to another site that doesn’t comply. On top of all that considering that it is only an EU law, the world is your oyster and there are many websites out there that will not have a big, bold, ugly, and partially scary message that the average user knows nothing about.
How do I do it?
Well, if you are using WordPress, there are a few plugins that you can download for your site. Ones that we really like, are the EU Cookie Directive and Cookie Control. These plugins will help you configure a notification to display on your site, requesting users to accept cookies.
If you are using Joomla, there is also an EU Cookie Directive plugin that you can download. For the sake of not turning this into a long list, call us if you are using a different platform than WordPress or Joomla.
We would recommend
- contacting a lawyer.
- thorough audit and disabling of cookies that aren’t necessary.
If you are not one of our regular web design clients but would like help figuring out how to get your site ready for the 26th of May, feel free to give us a call anyway!