On 26 May 2011, the amended Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations came into force, covering electronic marketing such as emails, faxes and text messages.
They include some changes to the rules for “cookies” on websites, and introduce new powers which can result in monetary penalties if Â the law may have been broken.
Hold on, what’s a Cookie?
A Cookie is a little chunk of data, typically very small that is stored on your computer when you visit some sites. It might be used to store a token as to whether you want a site to remember your login details in future. It could also be used by services like Google Analytics to track your movements through a web site.
So why is this a problem?
The problem is that Cookies can be used in ways which may breach your privacy. Cookies can be used anonymously for storing basic information to help the site operate, for example GoogleÂ AnalyticsÂ doesn’t need to know who you are in order to record your progress through a site, and simply uses the Cookie to tie up the data collected.
So, from the 26th of May every web site you visit has to :-
- give you the chance to NOT accept the cookies (and possibly restrict some services on the site)
- give information on the cookies used and what they are used for
The good news ‘was’ that organisations had a year to comply with the ruling, giving them time to put in place the relevant warnings and actions required. The bad news is, that year’s almost gone and so now it’s time to get your ‘web home’ in order.
Wait a minute, what does this mean for my web site?
More importantly though, you need to make changes to your site code to ensure that any service/feature that needs to write a cookie is prevented from doing so until the user gives permission.
This could mean:-
- skipping Â Google Analytics / Tracking code
- removing forms created by 3rd party services which may need to write cookies when loaded
- leaving out personalisation or other user features (like “remember me”) until the user agree
But what happens if visitors don’t accept my web site cookies?
If users don’t give permission for cookies you could lose any tracking information that relies on them to operate. This means your Google Analytics reports could show a sudden drop off of visitors/activity from the date you implement the changes.
So what do I do next?
You’ve only gotÂ few weeks to get this in place so why not get in touch with us and we’ll take a look at your site and let you know what’s involved.