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New Rules on Cookies

New Rules on Cookies

April 27, 2011

All businesses using cookies in their websites will have to comply with new laws initiated by the EU’s ePrivacy Directive, failing which they risk payment of fines of up to £500,000.

Cookies are data files that enable tracking of a user’s online activities.

The deadline for introducing the new laws is 25th May, but the Government is being lenient initially.

The DCMS in its 87 page response document Implementing the revised EU Electronic Communications Framework” stated: ‘we recognize the work on the technical solutions for cookie use will not be complete by the implementation deadline. It will take time for meaningful solutions to be developed’. So in the short term they do not expect the ICO to take enforcement action, while industry tries to meet the requirements of the new legislation.

So, what are the new laws?

Whereas previously the UK followed a policy of ‘opting out’, whereby you could decline the use of cookies, now these new laws require sites to explicitly get permission from the user before installing cookies on their Internet browsers.  What’s more web users must be put in a position to give informed consent.

The technological solutions being mooted refer to web browsers developing a system that will enable users to click on a button to give consent to ongoing permission to use cookies by default.  It has been said by some that the government is giving concessions to advertisers, as what is really being implemented is a diluted version of the EU laws. The laws have been diluted down due to web firms pushing for a system where browsing would not be constantly interrupted, fearing they would be responsible for getting permission from users every time they wanted to install a cookie.

The Government’s document urges businesses to “abide by the spirit of the revised Directive and develop best practice ahead of full implementation“ .  As Clare Walker puts it:  surely the Government is not suggesting that (aside from the two working parties mentioned in the document)  UK businesses  just work out for themselves what the rules mean in practice?