Have more websites asked about your privacy settings lately? They all seem to want to know if you are willing to accept cookies. Unfortunately this doesn’t refer to elevenses, but falls in with new legislation that requires websites to seek your consent before a cookie gets downloaded to your computer.
What is a cookie?
A cookie is a small file of numbers and letters that is downloaded onto your computer when you visit a website. In enables the website to remember you, your preferences, what you have in your shopping basket etc. Cookies can also be used by businesses to establish the numbers of visitors to a website – quite useful when monitoring visitor traffic and the popularity of particular pages.
What can a cookie do?
Cookies can be very useful, and sometimes they make visiting a particular website much easier. However, there are concerns regarding the privacy of the user. As a result, the new legislation is in place so that cookies can only be used where the user is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of the storage of, or access to, that information – and has given his or her consent. This is a clear change from previous legislation which required only that users had the option of opting out of receiving cookies.
Why it is important to address this matter now.
The legislation is not new; it has been in force since May 2011. However the Information commissioner’s office (“ICO”) agreed to allow businesses a 12 month period to adapt. This period has now passed and the ICO will consider complaints for a breach of this legislation in the usual way.
Penalties in the most serious cases can include a fine of up to £500,000.00
Recent press reports have suggested that businesses are largely unaware of, or are failing to act on the new cookies legislation – but ignorance will not be considered a defence.
If you are concerned about your compliance, or haven’t taken any steps to address this issue, we advise that the matter be urgently referred to your IT team or mail hosting service to advise further. In addition ICO has also published new updated guidance on new Cookies legislation.