Cookie warnings & the Law
In the second blog article in our web design Cornwall series, we discuss the use of cookie warnings and the legal implications of their use.
As many people know, from May 2011 a new privacy law came into effect across the EU (European Union). The law requires that websites ask visitors for consent to use most web cookies. This is why we see the annoying pop-ups and banners asking just that on so many UK websites.
The law allows an exception for “strictly necessary” cookies, such as those used to remember when something has been added to a shopping basket or somebodies login details.
The UK Government organisation responsible for upholding such a law, the Information Commissions Office (ICO) has stated that:
Browser settings giving individuals more control over cookies will be an important contributor to a solution. But the necessary changes to the technology aren’t there yet. In the meantime, although there isn’t a formal transitional period in the Regulations, the government has said they don’t expect the ICO to enforce this new rule straight away.
In fact, the ICO granted UK businesses a further 12-months grace period before implementing the law in May 2012. The general opinion within the industry can be summarised by a quote from the online legal blog Beneath the Wig:
… right now, all you have to do is well, keep calm and carry on. Uncle Ed will let us all know when it is time to actually do something.
Living with the law 6-months on
Six-months on, the industry and in fact the Government is still unclear as to the best way in which to enforce this law. There has been such an outcry from all areas of the industry and businesses to what is considered an ill-conceived and technically ignorant piece of legislation from the EU.
Surely this common sense approach negates the need to have these irritating pop-up warnings, which to be frank, most if not all people now ignore. All web designers promote themselves as having the ability to enhance the user experience with their designs. So come on web designers, lets walk-the-walk as well as talking-the-talk and stop adding annoying cookie warnings that only detract form the user experience.
You could go as far as the Silktide team and their No Cookie Law campaign. They stripped their websites of any cookie warnings and openly challenged the ICO to sue them. As expected, this didn’t happen, but how long they get away with it remains to be seen. The Silktide campaign is a legitimate one and a great way to highlight this unworkable and pointless bit of EU legislation. So good on them and good luck.
As a result of such campaigns, there will undoubtedly be some form of development with the approach of the ICO. Rest assured that whatever the outcome, Button Web Design will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide its existing and future clients with advice that will enable them to remain compliant with the law.
As it stands, most legitimate websites operated by ethical organisations have nothing to fear.