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Use of Cookies - Update

Oct 16 2012

Use of Cookies - Update

Relevance:             All firms operating a website which use ‘cookies’

Action required:     Reminder to review the use of cookies and decide how you will obtain consent for them being placed on the visitor’s computer.

Earlier this year we reminded firms of how the law relating to the use of “cookies” on websites had changed and that firms were given until 26 May 2012 to comply with the revised law

We have been advised that the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is active in its investigations into this area, as per the following statement from “Data Protection News” publication:

“The ICO's cookie team will commence investigations by the end of August. The new rules on cookies, requiring websites to alert users before depositing cookies onto their computers, came into force in May 2011. The ICO gave website operators a year's grace period to update their sites. Since then, 320 sites have been reported to the ICO via its online submission tool. Once the data are analysed by the ICO's team, 'further action' may be taken by the regulator.”

Remember, the ICO has powers to fine firms that show a disregard to their “use of cookies” obligations and this could be as high as £500,000.  It has also placed the following item on its website that explains to the public what they might find and action to take:

 Cookies - advice for members of the public

What are cookies?

A cookie is a small file of letters and numbers that is downloaded on to your computer when you visit a website. Cookies are used by many websites and can do a number of things e.g. remembering your preferences, recording what you have put in your shopping basket, and counting the number of people looking at a website.

The rules on cookies are covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. The Regulations also cover similar technologies for storing information, e.g. Flash cookies. The Regulations were revised in 2011, and the ICO is responsible for enforcing these new rules.

What do the new rules mean?

The rules require in most cases that websites wanting to use cookies get your consent.

How will these new rules impact on me when I use the internet?

As organisations start to comply with these rules you are likely to start to see more information about cookies on sites and be given more choices about these cookies. This might include, for example, being asked to agree to a cookie being used for a particular service, such as remembering your preferences on a site.

Organisations will need to decide on the best way to provide clear information about cookies and to give people using their websites the right choices. They will also want to make sure that these changes do not adversely affect the experience of people using the internet. This should ensure they find a solution which meets the requirements in a way that works well for their site and meets the needs of people using it.

How can I control my cookies?

You can use your web browser (e.g. Internet Explorer) to:

  • delete all cookies
  • block all cookies
  • allow all cookies
  • block third-party cookies
  • clear all cookies when you close the browser
  • open a 'private browsing' session
  • install add-ons and plug-ins to extend functionality

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