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The Cookie Monster is coming

Important changes have recently been made to the regulations that govern the usage of cookies on all websites.  The implications are far reaching and it is expected that many of the UK's firms will be left unprepared and exposed, despite having had 12 months notice of the required changes.  We've put together three key questions which to guide you through this legislation;

Q. Do you know what cookies you use on your website?
Q. Does your website comply with the imminent changes to the rules on how you use cookies for storing information on a user’s computer or mobile device?
Q. Did you know that as of today, the 12 month ‘lead in’ period for implementing The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations    2011 will expire and as of tomorrow, the Information Commissioner shall have a range of options available (including penalty fines of up to £50,000) to take formal action against anyone who has failed to put in place the measures needed to comply with the new Regs?

Do you know what a Cookie is?

A cookie is a small text file which can be downloaded on to a computer or mobile device when a user accesses a website. Cookies are useful for many reasons, including because they allow a website to remember a website user and track their browsing history, as well as enabling you, as website owner, to collect statistical analysis about how users access and use your website.

What is the purpose of the new Regulations?

A recent report found that online consumers need educating about basic online privacy fundamentals and that online businesses need to become more transparent in relation to how they collect and use the data they collect from their websites.

Whilst there have been rules relating to cookies in force for some time, the new Regulations are not as user friendly as their predecessors and require you provide your website users with considerably more information regarding cookies. Further, it is now necessary to obtain a positive consent to store cookies on a device. This is likely to cause difficulty for you and all website owners because it is unlikely that you will have obtained the necessary consent before a user enters your website.

So, what should you do?

Because the purpose of the Regulations is to protect website users, hiding your policy on cookies away (or even worse, not having a policy) is likely to mean that you are not compliant and are at risk of the ICO taking action against you.

So, if you have a website which uses cookies it is important that you take the necessary steps towards complying with the Regulations as soon as possible and there are a number of practical steps you can take in order do this, including:
a)    Clearly displaying on your website information regarding your use of cookies as soon as a user enters the website; and
b)    Ensuring users positively agree to the use of cookies in the manner in which you use them; and
c)    Having a very clear cookie policy which explains what cookies are, which cookies the website uses and how the user can disable them so that unnecessary cookies are not put on the user’s device.

For further information see the IPO's own site by CLICKING HERE

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