10 Days Until Cookie Law Changes

What’s changing?

The law which applies to how websites use cookies and similar technologies for storing information on a user’s equipment such as their computer or mobile device is changing .

The previous rule on using cookies for storing information was that a website had to:

  • tell people how they used cookies, and
  • tell them how they could ‘opt out’ if they objected.

Many websites did this by putting information about cookies in their privacy policies and giving people the possibility of ‘opting out’.

From the 26th May 2011 websites will need a user’s consent to store a cookie on their device.

The only exception to this rule is if a cookie is ‘strictly necessary’ for a service requested by the user. This exception is a narrow one but might apply, for example, to a cookie used to ensure that when a user has chosen the goods they wish to buy and clicks the ‘add to basket’ the site ‘remembers’ what they chose on a previous page.

The law is aimed at giving consumers more control over how their web browsing is tracked.

What will this mean for advertisers?

Behavioural advertising is a technique used by online publishers and advertisers to increase the effectiveness of their campaigns. It uses information collected on an individual’s web-browsing behavior, such as the pages they have visited or the searches they have made, to select which advertisements to display to that individual.

Behavioural advertising relies heavily on being able to track online behaviour via cookies – small text files placed on a user’s computer. The changes in the law will no longer allow advertisers to use cookies to gather information.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) said that the new law “is potentially detrimental to consumers, business and the UK digital economy”. The IAB and the European Advertising Standards Authority have both argued for self-regulation.

The big challenge for advertisers will be finding a way of obtaining permission without affecting the consumer’s experience.

Some advertising firms are being up-front about making use of peoples’ data and rewarding them for allowing them to use it. Consumers are realising that their data is valuable and some are willing to hand it over in return for preferential deals.

Where Can I Get More Information?

The Information Commissioners Office has published a pdf on the law changes.


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