How The Cookie Crumbles

1st June 2012

The law relating to the use of cookies changed on 26 May 2011 and website operators had a period of twelve months to prepare for the change (ending on 26 May 2012).

Cookies are small files that are downloaded on to computers when websites are visited.  Cookies are often used by website operators to remember preferences, record items placed in shopping carts and count the number of visitors to a site.

The new laws require that cookies and similar devices must not be used unless the user:

  • is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purpose of the storage of, or access to, that information;  and
  • has given his or her consent.

The new regulations are not prescriptive about the sort of information that should be provided to website users.  However the information should be sufficiently full and intelligible to allow website users to clearly understand the potential consequence of allowing storage and access to the information collected by the cookie should they wish to do so.  The information Commissioner’s Office has issued guidance notes on complying with the new laws and copies of those notes can be accessed at the ICO’c website at www.ico.gov.uk.

In an attempt to comply with the law, many website operators are including a pop up box on their site explaining the changes to the law and ask users to tick a box confirming that they accept the cookies used on the site.

It is likely that thousands of UK website operators will now be in breach of the new law as they fail to take the necessary steps to ensure that they provide clear and comprehensive information and obtain consent.

Date: 1 June 2012

If you wish to discuss any of the issues raised in this article or would like assistance with amending your website to ensure that you comply with the new cookie laws, please contact Rebecca Anforth.

The information provided in this article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Any law quoted in this article is correct as at 1 June 2012. Appropriate legal advice should be sought for specific circumstances before any action is taken. Copyright © Murrell Associates 2012.