EU Cookie Laws: Why You Will Be Seeing More Cookie Consent Messages

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Privacy advocates  in the European Union insist they serve the public interest, but critics say Internet cookie laws that became enforceable over the weekend will make things tougher for website operators and users alike.

The laws require websites owned by European companies and accessible to European audiences  to provide information about the use of tracking technology on the site and the purpose of that technology. Websites also must allow visitors to choose whether or not to be tracked.  Sites are starting to add pop-up messages asking visitors to opt in or specifically consent to cookies.

The laws apply to European companies and their websites (and arguably some large multi-national corporations).  If yours is a small business in the United States, your site probably is NOT subject to the cookie law.  Still you should be aware of the issue.  Let’s take a deeper dive to sort out what this issue is all about — who it impacts and who it doesn’t:

What’s It All About?

Is your site illegal in Europe? As of May 26, 2012 every Website available to European visitors and owned by European companies must follow the EU E-Privacy Directive passed in 2011. This means sites must notify users that tracking technology is being used, the reason for that technology, and must allow visitors to give their consent before the technology is used. Sitepoint

The problem with the new cookie laws. If you want to know how difficult the new EU tracking regulations are to follow, you should be aware that not even big EU institutions like the European Parliament and the European Commission can get it right. While all other Website owners are expected to sit up and take notice, these institutions aren’t even in compliance. ZDNet

What Britons need to know. Each of the EU’s member states has the responsibility of implementing its own version of the legislation upholding the EU’s E-Privacy Directive. In the UK, Website owners were required to be in compliance with the new law by last Saturday, but many are not. If you are among them, here’s what you should know. CNet

Reality Check

The average UK site does plenty of tracking. About a month before so-called UK cookie laws were scheduled to be enforceable, research showed the average UK site uses 14 tracking devices to collect user data, and about 68 percent of that data is being sent to a third party.

Some British startups say they won’t comply. An interview with some UK startups just ahead of the weekend activation of the UK’s version of the EU E-Privacy Directive indicates many plan to ignore the new law. Startups believe the new legislation will cost them revenue, sales, and resources, putting them at a disadvantage against competitors outside the European Union. Gigaom

What You Can Do?

Advice for small-business website owners. Focusing on the UK version of the “cookies” law, business consultant Megan Heaney shares some thoughts on what the law could really mean to small businesses and what she and her clients are doing to comply with the new regulations. Twiggal

A peek at one disclosure page. With the new EU “cookie” regulations coming up to strength, here’s a look at one way to clearly stipulate how site owners are tracking data from visitors, and what is being done with that data. Will this kind of disclosure page keep your business out of trouble? SportsMole

Could it mean the death of the Web? Well, there might not be a reason to get that dramatic, but Shaina Boon argues the new rules won’t be good for anyone. They will make it harder for Website owners to improve their products and services by not allowing the collection of data necessary for innovation.  And on behalf of companies in the United States she poses the question:  will the U.S. follow suit and implement a similar law?  Ad Age Digital

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3 Reactions
  1. Now where is the LIKE button when you need one?

  2. The average internet users will not understand anything about those cookie agreement messages. It will do nothing but confuse them.

    However, I have to agree that these laws will make the web a bit safer for our privacy.