Why You Need a Cookie Audit

The EU Cookie Directive 2012 is now in full force, and while  your chanves of being fined for non-compliance are slim, consumer expectations and awareness of their privacy rights are rising. 

One of the most important steps you can take towards compliance is to conduct a cookie audit, so you can inform visitors about the cookies your site is using.  This not only can reduce your risk of coming to the attention of regulators, it also demonstrates to your visitors your commitment to transparency that respecting privacy concerns.

There is significant evidence that visitors are more likely to engage and do business with you, if they feel well informed about your privacy practices - and that include the use of cookies.

Scan Your Site for Cookies

There are several ways you can scan and capture a list of cookies being set by your website, and each method has its pros and cons.  Some are manual and require a lot of work and time to complete, others are automated and can scan a lot of pages very quickly, but may not be able to give you a complete picture as automated crawlers cannot replicate all human behaviour that might generate cookies.

The most basic method is to use your browser.  First you have to clear out any existing cookies, whihc all browsers allow you to do.  Then you simply visit all the pages in you site, carrying out any actions any of your visitors might perform.  However, you should be careful not to click on any links that take you to other sites.  If you do this accidentally, you will have to start again from scratch.

Once you have finished, look at the list of all the cookies in your browser - these will all have come from your site.  There are problems with this approach though:

You will have to copy this list out to create a separate record

  • If you close your browser before you have copied them - the session cookies will be destroyed, so you will have to start again.
  • Some cookies may actually be destoyed before you can look at the list - becuase they have a very short life span.
  • If you accidentally visit another site, your list will contain their cookies as well, and you won't be able to reliably distinguish between the two.

For a more robust method, you can use the Optanon Auditor tool, or ask us about our cookie audit services.  Our technology is specifically designed to overcome these limitations of relying on your browser.

Categorising Cookies

Getting a list of cookies is easy, but the law requires that you explain what they do to your visitors, and this can be a lot trickier. This is because names of cookies, and even their values (the data they are storing) can be pretty meaningless on their own.

You can try doing the research yourself, and you will find that some cookies it is easy to get information on, some more difficult.  However, in most cases even armed with this information it can be difficult to know how to explain this to visitors in relatively simple language.

Fortunately, we can help you there as well.  We have built-up a huge knowledge-base about uses of cookies, and we are sharing this with everybody for free, via Cookiepedia - the leading website all about cookies.

Not only have we done the research about the most common cookies, but we have catagorised them, using the consumer friendly categories developed by the UK International Chamber of Commerce.  These cookie categories are: Strictly Necessary, Performance, Functionality and Targeting/Advertising - and you will find many websites are using these.


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