The Cookie Law is a new piece of
privacy legislation that requires websites to
obtain consent from visitors to store or
retrieve any information on a computer or any other web connected
device, like a smartphone or tablet.
It has been designed to protect online privacy, by making
consumers aware of how information about them is collected by
websites, and enable them to choose whether or not they want to
allow it to take place.
It started as an EU Directive that was adopted by all EU
countries on May 26th 2011. At the same time
the UK updated its Privacy and Electronic Communications
Regulations, which brought the EU Directive it into UK law.
There was a one year grace period in the UK, which ran out in
Each EU member state has done or is doing the same
thing. Although they all have their own approach and
interpretation, the basic requirements of the directive remain the
Almost all websites use files called 'cookies' which store
information in peoples' web browsers when they visit the site.
There are other technologies, like Flash and HTML5 Local Storage
that do similar things, and these are also covered by the
legislation, but as cookies are the most common technology in use,
it has become known as the Cookie Law.
However it is important to note that when we talk generally
about cookies in context of the law, we are also talking about all
of the similar technologies that perform the same function.
Cookies are used in many different ways on the web, the vast
majority of them beneficial to visitors. They act a bit like
a form of memory for web pages, and help to personalise a users web
This includes tracking people across the sites they visit, and
using this information to display more targeted advertising. Some
people are not comfortable about this happening without their
Especially company websites, e-commerce sites, and any sites that
If your business has a website, you will almost certainly need
to make changes to it to comply with the law.
If you don't you risk enforcement action from The Information Commissioners' Office
(ICO), the UK regulator responsible for the cookies
The ICO has powers which can include a fine of up
to half a million pounds. Although they won't
issue fines except in serious cases, they can still force you to
change your website to comply with the law.
So don't risk it - act
The ICO have produced guidance
for website owners who want to become compliant. They have written
a long document about it, but in summary it is:
- Audit your site to find out what cookies you have.
- Find out what these cookies are used for, and which ones you
need to get consent for (there are some exemptions)
- Work out how to get consent from your visitors to set cookies
on their internet device.
The Cookie Collective can provide you with all the tools you
need to become compliant:
- The Optanon
Auditor enables you to find out what cookies you have on your
website. (Or we can do it for you)
- Our Cookie
Audit service can then help you understand what these cookies
- Licence Optanon for your site
Cookies are little files
that almost all websites use as a kind of memory. They are
stored in your browser and enable a site to 'remember' little bits
of information between pages or visits.
They are mostly used to make the web experience better, like
automatically logging you in to a site on return visits, or
remembering settings like text size.
Most websites also use some kind of visitor tracking, like
Google Analytics, to measure site performance, and this will also
However some cookies are used to collect across websites you
have visited and display content and advertising based on this
This use of 'third party tracking' cookies in particular is
what the EU wants to raise awareness of with the new law. By
requiring websites to inform and obtain explicit consent for
cookies it aims to give web users more control over their online
To find out lots more about cookies in general and the different
types, take a look at Cookiepedia - a new
information resource we have built all about cookies.