26 May 2012

As a marketing consultancy that serves small and medium sized busineses, we thought it was important to get to the bottom of the latest EU legislation on cookies.

How should Professional Service and B2B firms, with essentially brochure websites, apply the law? So we have taken some legal advice – and here is the feedback from Richard Mullet of The Legal Partners.

“The law on the use of cookies changes on 26th May 2012. In future all users of websites must be told of the use of cookies and give their consent to their use. A cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie, is a piece of data stored by a website within a browser, and then subsequently sent back to the same website by the browser. Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember things that a browser had done there in the past, which can include having clicked particular buttons, logging in, or having read pages on that site months or years ago.

This new EU law is aimed at protecting website users’ personal data. The Information Commissioners Office will enforce compliance with the new laws and has the power to fine companies up to £500,000 for serious breaches of privacy regulations.

There are 3 basic types:

  1. An essential cookie which enables the website to perform an essential function (eg an analytical cookie); or
  2. A cookie which is necessary to provide a service requested by a user; or
  3. A cookie that is non-essential (eg customer recognition, customer tracking or customer profiling cookies and cookies which follow users clicks for behavioural advertising purposes). These are considered more intrusive to the website user.

It is important to audit your company’s website to see what types of cookies are used and how relevant they are to processing users’ personal data. The more they relate to that processing the more likely that consent is required.

The law is designed to ensure that users of websites give their express consent to the use of cookies by clicking on a pop-up menu when they first enter saying that they agree to cookies being used. There are other approaches which can be used based on your type of website, cookies used and customer profiles.

For more information contact Richard Mullett, Solicitor at The Legal Partners – Richard.Mullett@TheLegalPartners.com who would be able to advise your business how to navigate through the “Cookie Jar”!

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