June 30, 2012

At last… your cookie questions finally answered!

Cookies have been in the headlines recently and we’re always on top of the latest industry developments and legal requirements, which is why we’ve put together a Q&A on this blurry subject. We hope this goes some way to explaining the situation, but remember we’re no more than a phone call away to an explanation in full.

Cookies are a kind of biscuit. What have they got to do with my website?
Cookies are used by websites to collect information about users and their computer or device. A typical example of a cookie used by a site such as yours would be to store usernames and passwords, or information on what a visitor last browsed or bought on an e-commerce site. They seek to enhance the user’s experience next time they visit. They’re the reason a John Lewis ad on another site starts flashing up product shots of the very things you persuaded yourself not to buy when you last looked on the John Lewis website. But now that ad’s tempted you back… Clever, eh?

Okay, I’m with you now… But why the big fuss about them?
A new European e-Privacy law has been introduced that aims to better protect people’s online privacy by ensuring they are aware that a website uses cookies and, crucially, consent to their use. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is implementing these new measures in the UK, while the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is responsible for regulation. The law came into effect 25 May, but there was a lot of confusion and no official guidance as to whether websites needed to get ‘informed’ or ‘implied’ consent. The ICO has now confirmed implied consent is the way to go. In practice, this means a website needs to display information about its use of cookies and tell the user how to turn them off if they wish. So that’s what your site now needs to do to comply with the law.

So my website is breaking the law at the moment? Argh!
Yes, it is – but don’t panic. Really – don’t. The ICO is a long way off issuing official warnings, imposing fines or coming for you with pitchforks in-hand. Here’s what they’ve said: “We recognise that there are issues around how long this is going to take. What we do expect is that anyone who’s not ready by the end of May 2012 can at least demonstrate that they’ve a) taken some steps already and b) that they’ve got a realistic plan at the end of which they’ll be able to say they’ve achieved compliance.” And that’s precisely what we’re here to help you with.

Phew! So what changes do you need to make to my website?
We’ve looked carefully at the leading, early adopters of compliance and once we’ve looked at your website we’ll recommend the best solution for your site and in relation to what everyone else is doing. We can make it as simple and cost-effective as possible or create you a bespoke solution – if you’d like an Alan Carr- presented 4OD style video we can certainly look into it for you (although it’s unlikely Alan Carr would be available!).

How much is it going to cost me?
The cost will be dependent on the solution you’d like. It could be as little as an hour or two’s work. But whatever you go for you can be sure it will include:

• A full cookies audit of your site to establish the number, type and function of the cookies it uses, including any third-party cookies and other technologies.

• The creation and implementation of a separate cookies policy page to make your website legally compliant.

• Use of the template cookies policy statement we have produced, tailored to include your website/company details and an allowance for minor amends.