What’s All This New Cookie Stuff About?

You have probably noticed lately that lots of websites are bringing to your attention that they are using cookies. Are you wondering what these cookies are and what they are for? Well here’s a simple explanation.

They are also called HTTP cookie, browser cookie or web cookie and when you visit a website that uses cookies for the first time, a cookie is downloaded onto your computer. But don’t worry cookies cannot carry viruses, and cannot install malware on your computer they are only Text Files which you can read using the Notebook program and usually contains information like a website name and the unique user ID. But some cookies are more complex they might record how long you spend on the website, what pages you visited on the website or how many times you visited that website. Cookies are also used to see if you are logged in or not into an account and which account you are logged in under; or store data on what is in your shopping basket.

But why are we just being informed about the cookies now? The main reason is the new EU law that came into effect from 26 May 2012 which requires website owners to get the consent from users before they save any information in the cookies they store on visitors computer any other device that the visitors is using to browse the internet. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) updated its policy to allow companies and organization to use “implied consent” to comply. This means users do not have to make an explicit choice but if they continue use the website they have accepted for information to be gathered.

Some cookies might be exempt from the requirement to obtain consent of the visitors. These cookies are: “User-input” cookies (e.g. shopping baskets); Authentication cookies (e.g. to access a secure website); User-centric security cookies (e.g. to detect repeated failed log-ins); Multimedia player cookies (e.g. to record network speed, image quality or buffer information); UI customisation cookies (e.g. used to store preferences such as choice of language); Social plug-in to share content (logged-in members) (e.g. content sharing).

But as a business if you use non-essential cookies like: Google Analytics, Google Adwords, Banner Re-targeting advertising you will be required to notify visitors that cookies are being used on the site and offer the option for visitors to reject them.

If you are a business owner and you have a website, you should read the International Chamber of Commerce’s guide to the cookie law. If you are a web user, visit All About Cookies.