CookieLaw Blog April 19, 2013

Google Goes Cookie Law Compliant

The world’s largest web company has started moving towards complying with the cookie law, nearly two years after it came into effect in the UK and other EU countries.

Sometime around the 8th of April, reports started coming in of notices appearing in search results on its European domains.  However there was clearly some kind of timed roll out – it took 10 days before I started to see the notice appearing in my browsers.

There is a simple notice that appears at the bottom of the search home page, then between the sponsored and organic links in a search results page.  You can see an example below.

Google Search Cookies

The approach is relatively straightforward, and includes a link to a page containing a video explaining in quite general terms how Google uses cookies.  The video itself is not new.  It was first seen in Google’s ‘Good to Know’ campaign, all about how the giant uses your data to give you a better web experience.  That campaign first appeared in January 2012, and was both online and with heavy print advertising too.  However, according to YouTube, the video has been available since October 2011.

Given the simplicity of this approach, it is something of a wonder why Google didn’t do this earlier. After all if they weren’t bothered about it before, why now?

The answer to the second part is that it is probably no coincidence that this message has started appearing shortly after the announcement that no less than six regulators across the EU have started proceedings against the company.  The basis of the action being taken is that Google’s unified privacy policy does not meet the requirements of the ePrivacy Directive, from which the national cookie laws are derived.

Whatever the reason, the move should be welcomed.  With Google having taken action, other businesses will have fewer reasons not to now get their own house in order.  A few months ago, one populist campaign declared the cookie law dead, yet that opinion now seems very short sighted.

The frenzy, hype and panic may be over, but the law is not going away.  If anything privacy concerns are getting higher on the technology agenda than ever before.  Many businesses continue to want to take sensible steps to address the requirements of the law.  This is not just for compliance, but increasingly it is being seen as an issue of gaining and retaining trust from visitors – a high value commodity, especially in today’s environment.

As for Google, well they still probably have a long way to go to re-assure regulators, but they are making a step in the right direction now, and for that they should be applauded.

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