10. May 2011 13:54
On May the 26th, a new law comes into effect that governs how website's use and store 'Cookie' data online. (We apologise for the following joke) A law that's certainly set to... make the cookie crumble.
If you're not aware of what a Cookie file is, it's a small, sometimes encrypted text file that lives in browser directories, that are used by web developers to store information about people who visit their websites. While this sounds sinister, it's really not. They're used, for instance, to store information on products you've added to your basket on an eCommerce store. For more information about Cookies, go to All About Cookies.
What do the new laws mean for you?
The new laws essentially mean that web developers have to gain consent from their users before they can utilise cookies, but the first thing to remember is to not worry too much about it, as it's certainly not worth panicking about, at least not yet.
The second thing to do, is to have a look at what cookies are utilised on your site, and what they're doing. Some cookies are exempt from the legislation "if storing cookies is strictly necessary for a service requested by the user." For example, if you run an ecommerce site, storing cookies is necessary for an item to be kept in a customer's basket.
For users signing up to an online account, you can put some text in the Terms and Conditions that the user expressly allows the website to utilise cookies, and you can also do this on login pages.
The ICO have released a comprehensive PDF about the new EU Cookies Law (PDF) that we highly recommend taking a look at!