The Cookie Law – What’s it all about?

What are cookies?
Cookies are small files that are left on a users computer. Cookies are used to save data in order to track what the user is doing in order for a users experience to be tailor made. The cookies trigger the server in order to display the information that the user has interacted with.

Here’s a simple breakdown of how to go about categorising cookies:

Zero compliance risk or ‘strictly necessary’ cookies Always first-party and not persistent. These include functional navigation and user session cookies for shopping baskets.
Low compliance risk Always first-party and may be persistent. These cookies include accessibility options for visually impaired users and, arguably, analytics cookies.
Medium compliance risk Usually first-party and persistent. These might be used to store personally identifiable information, or limited cross-site tracking, in order to present content based on previous visits. Another good example is the Facebook Like button.
High compliance risk Third-party and persistent. These are mainly used to track and record visitor interests without prior consent, and aggregate this data for use by third-parties, normally advertisers. This also includes cookies set through the provision of embedded content which is not ad-related, such as Google Maps and YouTube videos.
(Reference: http://www.netmagazine.com/features/beginners-guide-new-cookie-law)

Cookie Law
The new cookie law states that a user has to consciously allow the use of cookies when browsing on sites. An example of this would be an alert indicating to the user that cookies need to be enabled in order to use the site. Some sites now are going one step ahead and already enabling cookies straight away but indicating to a first time user that this has been done so the user can then switch cookies off if they choose to.

The law also requires that the user can easily access more information about cookies.

Image displays an example of a prompt for a site that has already enabled cookies. The user is made aware of this and can gain further information and turn cookies off.

Why is this law a good idea?
Due to the amount of data that is vastly growing and being stored by numerous different machines, cookies are pieces of data that the user until this point has had not much control in the information that is stored about their browsing habits. By introducing this law the user is now more aware of some of the data that is being tracked and more importantly they are in control of their data.

Why is this law a bad idea?
The downside to this law is that this may make people more sceptical about browsing online especially their favourite sites. Ultimately your online information is captured elsewhere, this is inevitable but cookies are one way in which now the user can control. However the problem websites face is that a lot of functionality especially in e-commerce depends on cookies being used, this way the products that the user is shopping for can then be added to a basket for example. If the user is able to switch cookies off then this means that they will no longer be able to use the main functionality of these kind of websites.

How does this effect the user?
So to speak, it doesn’t effect the user. Once again most websites are automatically enabling cookies but just notifying the user. The negative side to any of these will be for first time users getting a lightbox containing an agreement that the user has indicated that they have seen this prompt.

How does this effect the world wide web?
This mostly effects the people who are building a website. The cookie law needs to be abided by, if not a company can be charged around £500,000 for not abiding. This makes this part of the build important to discuss with a client in order to not get them a hefty fine! Ultimately the cookie law will not have much of an impact on the web. As long as it is taken into consideration and websites work alongside it, then we should see a more open web…potentially.

(Refereneces:
http://www.whatarecookies.com/
http://www.netmagazine.com/features/beginners-guide-new-cookie-law
http://www.aboutcookies.org/Default.aspx?page=3)

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