New Compliance Measures Are Required for Cookies


New measures enacted by the government may start impacting consumers, business owners and web site managers in the very near future. The United Kingdom’s government passed the legislation on May 26, 2011. Like most aspects of government after the bill was passed, it took a few months for it to be used in practiced.

According to the terms of the bill, web site owners will begin complying with all new regulations within a year of the bills enactment. For web site owners in the United Kingdom this translates to a May 26, 2012 compliance date. By this day, all United Kingdom-based companies must be in compliance with the law or face a maximum amount of £500,000 in fines.

What Are the Privacy and Cookies Laws?

Internet users are constantly tracked by each website they visit. When they go to a web page, the web page will send several small data packages onto the user’s computer. Once the cookies are on the computer, they can track the websites a user visits, their personal information or anything sent over the Internet. Malicious cookies can wreak havoc on a user’s computer and steal personal information that the user did not wish to release onto the Internet.

Not all aspects of cookies are bad. Google Analytics actually uses cookies to customize the user experience. Search queries that are specific to the person will pop up and ads are generated that match the individual’s interests. Even better, cookies can track what goes in to a user’s shopping basket and review their past purchases. Using these past purchases, the website can recommend new items for the user to purchase.

What Should Web Site Owners Do?

The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations is now on the verge of being enacted. It is intended to govern the way websites operate on user’s smart phones, computers, tablets and mobile devices. According to the Information Commissioner’s Office, non-compliant individuals can expect to face a fine if they do not follow the rules.

Although the regulations encompass a spectrum of different rulings, there is one key issue website owners must address. Any website must inform a user about all cookies that are installed on the user’s computer. The user must consent to the cookies. Problematically, this well-intentioned law may actually serve to detract from the user’s experience. It will be just a couple of days before the world can see how businesses will comply with the new measures and discover if the ICO follows through with their threat of monetary fines.