As of 26th May 2012 all UK websites will be required to offer users an opt-in tool to allow cookies. Websites found not to be complying with the new ruling could be faced with a maximum fine of £500,000. Although there is a chance that this legislation may be altered or amended in the future.
You may not be aware, but third party scripts on your website could be using cookies to track your users behaviour. Google Analytics, online advertisers and other companies also sell users online activities to help profile user behaviour when using the web.
Although there can be a privacy concern when it comes to cookies there are some uses that help improve the browsing experience. Many webmasters will track their users behaviour to help improve their site. A cookie can also be used to save settings that enable the user to have a more custom experience.
Now UK webmasters will now find themselves having to justify and explain monitoring that has previously been taken for granted. A message will now have to be displayed on every site that gives the user the option to opt-in to accepting cookies, and this will need to be done in a way that does not affect the browsing experience.
This law has been introduced to help prevent companies exploiting cookies for unethical purposes. Even if you feel that your site is using cookies for the good of the user, you still need to make them aware that you are using them. So you have a few options to consider…
Don’t take and notice! Doing nothing can be risky as this new law does affect about 90% of sites in Europe, although it will be almost impossible to enforce the new cookie law.
Option 3: Disable all cookies and loose that good old friend Google Analytics! This will mean your site (from a user perspective) will remain pretty much the same and your visitors will not see any annoying pop-ups or prompts.
So they are your options, this is something that you should already have thought about, but if not you should be thinking about it now. Although there can be a fine for not complying with the new legislation, regulators have said in the short-term that they really want to help companies to comply rather than punish them.
If you are confused by all this, want some advice or would like to implement an opt-in option then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
See our guide on how to implement a cookie opt in script here.