Earlier this year we made a resolution at Pull Digital.  This was that we would make sure we kept ahead of the impending cookie legislation so that we could guide our clients through the mess.

Well I’ve got to say that following the release of the updated guidance for UK website owners  from the ICO, I feel a little inclined to set up some protest tents outside the ICO’s porticos and whip up an anti-cookie legislation movement.

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Are you ready for Cookie Compliance?

Just to remind you, amazingly this all started with an EU Directive in 2003 that required that people have cookies explained, and are given a choice as to which of their online activities are monitored. 

For UK web owners the date you are supposed to be living in dread of is 26th May 2012.  The ICO has demanded that website owners must receive ‘consent’ from site visitors to place cookies on their machines from that date.

At Pull Digital we have come to the conclusion that the ICO is setting themselves up for some sort of fall.  And as Edmund Burke wrote two hundred years ago: ‘Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny’ and ought to be resisted.

This is why:  We predict that it will become a ‘blink first’ contest between large brands who choose not to comply, and the ICO’s appetite for prosecution or persecution.
 
This is because – from what we’ve seen from early examples – explaining to a naïve user what a cookie is, what it does, why they or others may benefit from them, and what your website will work like if they don’t accept them is a forlorn task of education.  Try this from the ICO’s own website:

ICO-cookies-s.jpg

I’m trying to think what my mother would make of that.  I suspect that she would leave the site – as many people obviously did based on the data below.
 

ICO-visits.jpg

And that’s before we even get into explaining third party or shopping cart cookies.  We had an interesting time asking round the office to see what people’s definition of a third party cookie was – and we’re a digital agency for heaven’s sake.

At Pull Digital, we have believed for some time that cookie planting is essentially a victimless crime (unlike say automated telephone calls – anyone for finding a way of outlawing them?).  No-one knows who I am based on my computer accepting a cookie.  In fact it’s far less an invasion of my privacy than my mobile telling the network via a nearby base-station where I am.  The network works best if your phone just does it when it senses the proximity of the next cell.

Applying cookie privacy law to your mobile would mean that every time you entered a new cell-site you would need to be prompted by your phone to accept the new cell site.  The difference is that unlike accepting cookies on your computer, the powers that be really can find out where you’ve been from your mobile.

We think the whole thing needs a re-think.  Fortunately, technology and hopefully a bit of a common sense blended with ingenuity could come to the rescue.  Rumour has it that a new wave of W3C web browsers will allow a one-time opt-in on installation.  This would avoid all the site-by-site cookie sign-up nonsense.  How tired will web users get of clicking cookie acceptance sign-ups for every site they visit?   Our vote is that the opt-in would be the default, and any opt-out would be heavily caveated with intimations of what using the Internet would be like if everyone opted out.

If you are of the cautious kind, you probably want to know that you will avoid the threat of legal action if you are following the ICO advice to achieve compliance.  Interpreting the guidance, this suggests that by the 26th May 2012 date you should have:

1.    Audited your current use of cookies.
2.    Updated privacy messages on your site to reference use of cookies.
3.    Implemented or be working on implementing a method of offering opt-in to cookies.

If you are feeling a little more willful like us, you might want to monitor some of the big brands and watch the impending game of ‘chicken'.

Let us know how you feel about cookie legislation!

Useful links on cookie compliance:

•    Best explanation: http://www.smartinsights.com/marketplace-analysis/digital-marketing-laws/latest-uk-guidance-for-eu-cookie-law/

•    Cookie Audit requirements: http://www.equimedia.co.uk/how-to-do-a-cookie-audit.html

•    Implementation Examples: http://www.malcolmcoles.co.uk/blog/eu-cookie-law-examples-of-sites-already-implementing-it/

•    And to lighten the mood: A funny example of excessive cookie related pop-ups. You have to read them all, they are really funny:

http://www.davidnaylor.co.uk/eu-cookies-directive-interactive-guide-to-25th-may-and-what-it-means-for-you.html



Thanks to #EmmaTed for research and material used in this article.

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