The UK government has updated the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations in response to the EU Privacy Directive. In light of this the Information Commissioner’s Office has provided guidance on the EU Cookie Law which came into effect in May 2012.
A new law on cookies demands that you, as a website user, are given the opportunity to understand how cookies are used on our websites and consent to cookies being stored on your computer (laptop/mobile/tablet).
What are cookies?
Cookies are small text files that the web sites you visit place on your computer to store information about your visit. Cookies are ‘passive’ in that they contain information your browser can retrieve, but do not contain programmes, viruses or malicious software. Cookies normally expire after a certain length of time, although that time can be anywhere from a few minutes to more than a year.
Most common cookies
– These cookies expire when you close your web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome). These cookies are used for various reasons, for example, remembering what you have put in your shopping basket as you browse a website. They can also be used for security to access your Internet banking or email.
– These cookies are still stored on your computer after you have closed your web browser which allows your preferences on websites to be remembered. These cookies are used for a variety of purposes, for example, remembering your preferences on a website (your language choice or your user name on a particular website).
First and Third Party cookies
– This refers to the website placing the cookie. First party cookies are cookies set by the website you are visiting. Third party cookies are set by another website; the website you are visiting may have advertising on the page and this other website will be able to set a cookie on your computer. Third party cookies on the main web browsers allow third party cookies by default. Changing the settings on your browsers can prevent this.
– There are some exemptions to the above where it is essential for a website to store information on your computer, for example, to provide a service to you that you have requested.
Generally, the role of cookies is beneficial, making your interaction with frequently-visited sites smoother with no extra effort on your part. Without cookies, online shopping would be much harder. Without cookies, some websites will become less interactive with the cookie option turned off.