Web Talk

What are Cookies?

Cookies are small files that are used by website owners to speed up the user experience, it’s something we all live with as website users, if cookies didn’t exist the fluidity of our internet use would be affected. A cookie is a file that is downloaded to a user’s computer that enables the website to recognise it and display previously viewed content (such as items in a shopping basket, previously viewed items and logging in information).

Cookies come in various types. Session cookies are only present whilst the user is browsing the website and enable the website to remember selections that the user has made. Persistent cookies remain on the users’ machine after the website has been exited and will generally remain active for a set period of time, these enable the website to recognise the return of the user and recall selections that the user had made on their last visit.

The Cookie Law

Last year (May 2011) the law changed, the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) is charged with ensuring that website owners notify all visitors that the website that they are on uses cookies and will place cookies on the users’ machine. The ICO is due to begin enforcing this EU directive in May 2012.

The new legislation designed to protect users’ privacy online will force website owners to only use cookies if the visitor has been provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes for which the cookie is used and has given their consent. The only circumstance where consent is not required is where the cookie is essential to the service being requested by the user – this is very much open to interpretation.

Failure to comply can result in fines of up to £500,000 and so ignore the warning with peril.

99% of websites use cookies of some type. If your website provider has not yet contacted you about changes that need to be made to advise your visitors of the cookies that are used and what they are used for then we would advise you to contact them.  Your website provider should provide you with a cookie audit and advise you of what you need can do to easily and cheaply comply with this new legislation.

To read more on this and other subjects, click here to visit the Ascensor blog

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