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As if the latest ASA/CAP guidelines dictating how broadband should and shouldn’t be advertised weren’t enough to disarm UK Internet Service Providers’ marketing, another new law is about to come into effect that will cripple all UK companies trying to make best use of the Internet to market their products and services. It’s known as the EU Cookie Law and it comes into force from May 26 2012.

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing

Darren Farnden, Head of Marketing

Under the new law, every single company or individual in the EU using cookies on their website will have to alert every visitor and give them the choice to continue with or without the use of cookies. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to £500,000! This will result in website owners having to use pop up boxes or splash pages to inform visitors and gain their consent. As a result, websites will now run the risk of their visitors declining all cookies, which in effect stops them from working all together. No more logging into secure sites, no more adjusting text sizes and remembering preferences and no more Google Analytics to help marketers produce websites that are helpful and relevant for visitors.

The law first originated as an EU Directive in May 2011, which introduced a new piece of privacy legislation that requires website owners to obtain consent from visitors to store or retrieve cookies on devices such as a computer or mobile. Cookies, reportedly used on 92 percent of websites (Silktide.com: Cookie Law), are small text files that are dropped onto devices that are commonly used for a whole host of reasons – from logging into websites; storing your preferences such as accessibility text sizes; enabling you to purchase items online; to tracking visitors. The list is extensive. At the same time, the UK introduced the changes to its Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. Although the law is already in effect in the UK, The Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) obtained one year’s grace period before it must be implemented by all UK businesses.

Whilst we commend the Government and EU for attempting to protect people’s privacy, this new law will not only worsen the experience of website visitors and lessen companies’ marketing effectiveness but also hit them financially, especially where they rely heavily on behavioural adverts. It’s not going to be easy for these businesses to gain consent from visitors to track them in order to make advertising more effective. But the truth is behavioural adverts are very effective and sometimes extremely useful to those who see them when browsing. Imagine if Google, who make over 97% of their revenues from targeted ads, had to ask permission each time they used a cookie. They would surely not survive long. Maybe the Government has got it in for marketers; we’re certainly starting to think so after the ASA and CAP guidelines.

Furthermore, the Government has given no specific recommendations to how they would like UK organisations to comply with this law, other than an in-depth privacy notice being needed to specify what cookies a website uses and why, along with some sort of method to gain consent. Surely logic would show that there is only a need to give people the choice about the cookies which track individuals and use spyware.

Rather than asking for visitors consent to install cookies across every site that uses cookies, what’s actually needed is for visitors to be educated and for them to use modern browsers that have the ability to change cookie settings, including third party cookies often used for targeted ads. Instead the Government has taken the least effective approach of applying a one-size-fits-all approach to all website owners, with little regard for ‘normal’ websites.

In actual fact, what’s most annoying about this is the two-faced approach the government are taking. It wants us to make cookies more transparent to protect the privacy of users online and yet it has recently been found that it is planning to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK. More on this topic another day!

Have your say!

What do you think about the new EU Cookie Law? Do you think the Government is right to protect the privacy of online users but are going about it the wrong way? Or do you think the Government could cause more harm than good for the online businesses? We would like to know your thoughts, so please leave us a comment below.

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One Response to “The EU Cookie Law – Bureaucracy at its worst”

  1. Yep, it’s a joke. I can’t see this working well at all!

    This blog is worth a look :¬)
    http://www.davidnaylor.co.uk/eu-cookies-directive-interactive-guide-to-25th-may-and-what-it-means-for-you.html

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