New Cookie Laws – is your website legal?

As of the 26th May 2011 laws regarding the usage of cookies in websites are changing. Websites now have to ask permission for the ability to be able to store a cookie on your PC.

Firstly let me explain simply what a cookie is:

A cookie is a small text file which is placed on your computer by a website. When a webpage is accesed by the user the website saves this text file which stores information about the usage of the website, like pages viewed etc. Every time the user then visits the webpage the web server recieves and updates the cookie file if necessary with any changed information.

There are two types of cookies, one is related to your browsing session which are deleted upon ending the connection to the website, these are called session cookies. These store data like items you may have put in a shopping cart / basket when ordering from a website. The second type are called permanent cookies (or persistant cookies) and are stored on the hard drive of your computer. These are used to store user preferences on a website which may allow users to change themes and also store user details for login purposes.

So what is the new law?

Although the law is quite lengthy the new rules state that you are only allowed to store cookies on a users computer if they have given their consent and that the information about the cookie is clear and why it is being stored. The new rules apply to all websites based in the EU as they are from a new European Directive.

There is a good guide released by the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) all about the new rule, what it entails how you should comply and what happens if a complaint is made about a website. This guide can be found at this direct link.



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