New EU Law and the Effect it Has on Cookie Behaviour in the UK

Businesses, marketers, and many internet users are bracing themselves for an interesting time in the online era as from 25th May, new EU legislation requires “explicit consent” from web users before a site can make use of cookies.

Cookies – what are they and what’s the problem?

CookiesWhat is a cookie? Sparing the excessive details, which you can find on Wikipedia, cookies are small text files stored on a computer and used by Web browsers. The file can be used for a variety of things that relate to authentication, personalisation, and tracking.

Beneficial example of cookies in use are; keeping a record of a shopping basket on an eCommerce site as the user keeps browsing, remembering your customised layout on the BBC homepage, and ourselves to report on a client’s SEO Campaign as we generally use Google Analytics to track visits.

However, the issue for many is that it raises privacy issues as a cookie can track your on site web surfing habits. Ever wondered why Google and the likes of Amazon display related products to the ones that you have previously looked at in their online ads?

This behavioural advertising is a popular online marketing tool, involving people being tracked across websites, with their behaviour used to create a profile that dictates the type of adverts they see. A website has been created by the Internet Advisory Bureau as a guide to online behavioural advertising.

What do the European Laws Suggest?

The new EU directive demands that users be informed about the information stored in cookies and provide their consent to do so.

When the Office of Fair Trading recently enforced Handpicked Media to “clearly identify when promotions and editorial comment have been paid for, so that consumers are not misled” they gave precise guidelines to web users, which no doubt helps ASA investigate the non-disclosure of paid links.

Unfortunately, the EU haven’t provided any particular guidelines on how to gain explicit consent, leaving many scratching their heads and wondering how this will even be enforced due to the various technical issues involved.

David Naylor has sarcastically provided an “interactive guide” (popup warning ;) ) to what it could literally mean by requiring explicit consent. I can’t imagine businesses or any website going to these lengths, can you?

Further reading: BBC, SustainableGov, Clickz.

Image Credits: yurilong

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