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14th February 2013 |  Written by Dave Ashworth

Cookie Law? What Cookie Law?

Unless you have been living under a rock, or don’t spend much time in the digital world, you will have at some point in the last 12 months or so come across the ridiculous EU Cookie Law demanding that all websites gain consent from visitors to use cookies on their sites.

The reason why this was so ridiculous was that many websites rely on cookies to various degrees in order to track visitor data, display ad & contents and are the backbone of many a functional ecommerce site with regards baskets etc.

Consent would put an obstacle in the way of a functional/useful visit from the point of view of both the user and site owner.  Everyone knew that if you need someone to opt in to something before visiting your site, they wouldn’t – around 90% of visitors to the ICO site did not opt in by checking the tick box – imagine your analytics if it had 90% of its visitor data missing!

Still, the ICO gave everyone 12 months as of May 2011 to get their site in order – this saw a lot of websites implement a banner whereby users would immediately be alerted that cookies were in use and for them to proceed on the site they had to accept that cookies will be used.

We did a lot of research at the time and consulted legal experts and decided that the best way to proceed would be to introduce a “Cookie Policy” page that would be clearly linked to from every page of the site, inform users what cookies we use and why and how, if they so wish, they could be removed – this takes the stance of implied consent which makes far more sense from a site owner and visitor point of view.

As the deadline approached last May, though the ICO had it within their powers to issues fines of up to 500k for non-compliant websites, it became apparent that no one was really taking the law too seriously and at the 11th hour the ICO themselves decided that implied consent would actually suffice.  As the big boys like Facebook, Google and Amazon had taken no notice, perhaps they saw the task ahead of them and thought better of it.

As of 31st January, they have now adapted their own site and stopped asking for consent  upon arrival, and instead have a banner that links to a cookie policy that, funnily enough, inform users what cookies we use and why and how, if they so wish, they could be removed…

The official word on this is as follows:

“We first introduced a notice about cookies in May 2011, and at that time we chose to ask for explicit consent for cookies. We felt this was appropriate at the time, considering that many people didn’t know much about cookies and what they were used for. We also considered that asking for explicit consent would help raise awareness about cookies, both for users and website owners. Since then, many more people are aware of cookies – both because of what we’ve been doing, and other websites taking their own steps to comply. We now consider it’s appropriate for us to rely on a responsible implementation of implied consent, as indeed have many other websites.”

The unofficial word is they probably saw the error of their ways when they lost a vast amount of website visitor data and thought better of trying to take Amazon et al to court.

We found this infographic on the silktide.com that pretty much sums up the whole thing quite nicely:

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