Cookies are very small text files that websites install on visitors’ devices for a number of reasons, such as to enable shopping baskets to work correctly and, at the other end of the spectrum, to allow advertising to become more targeted and personalised.
Cookies cannot harm your device at all, and they can make the internet incredibly easy to use, but obviously it’s only fair that it should be up to the visitor whether they accept these cookies or not. All Internet browsers, such as Google Chrome and Internet Explorer, have an optional setting to disallow these cookies, but it’s felt by legislators that greater education of web users about cookies and what they do is required, especially in an age in which online privacy is becoming more and more significant. This is why the EU Cookies Law has come into place.
What is the new EU Cookies Law and why is it needed?
The EU Cookies Law (officially known as the e-Privacy Directive) is a European law that was passed in Europe in 2011 but only came into force in the UK on May 26th 2012.
From this date, websites which include features that place cookies on a visitor's device must advise the visitor that this is occurring.
The law was designed to stop privacy invasion and the tracking of the identity of visitors on a mass scale, particularly by large organisations who may be attempting to collect swathes of information about their visitors’ browsing habits without their knowledge. The law also aims to ensure that the public are more aware of cookies and what they do.
What are the four categories of cookie and do we use them?
1. ‘Strictly necessary’ cookies and what they are for.
These are cookies that are necessary to place on the visitor’s device in order for the site to fulfil its primary function, such as cookies that enable the visitor to log in to an account or add things to their shopping basket.
For example, when you visit an online shop and put an item in your shopping basket, you’ll find that you can navigate away from that page and return later with the items still in your basket. That’s the cookie on your device remembering the contents of the basket.
These are the only cookies that don’t, under the new law, require the website owner to notify the visitor about them.
- This website “Does” set strictly necessary cookies.
2. Performance cookies and what they are for.
These cookies collect statistics about how visitors use a website, for instance where the visitor arrived to the site from, how long they spend there and which pages get visited most often.
Google Analytics is an example of a performance cookie. Website owners can collect information about their site using the Google Analytics cookie and then assess and make improvements to their site based on the results.
- This website “Does” set performance cookies.
3. Functionality cookies and what they are for.
These cookies allow the website to remember choices a visitor makes (such as the visitor’s name, language or region) and provide enhanced, more personal features. For instance, a website may be able to provide local weather reports or traffic news by storing in a cookie the region in which the visitor is currently located.
Generally, these cookies do not track the visitor’s browsing activity on other websites, and the information they collect is usually anonymous.
- This website “Does” set functionality cookies. These cookies allow the website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you are in) and provide enhanced, more personal features. For instance, a website may be able to provide you with local weather reports or traffic news by storing in a cookie the region in which you are currently located. These cookies can also be used to remember changes you have made to text size, fonts and other parts of web pages that you can customise. They may also be used to provide services you have asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. The information these cookies collect may be anonymised and they cannot track your browsing activity on other websites..
4. Targeting cookies (or 'Advertising cookies') and what they are for.
These are cookies that sit on the visitor’s device and record their browsing habits and preferences. This information is then used to define visitor interests and therefore tailor marketing and online advertising to them.
For example, if you are logged into your Facebook account, every page you visit that contains a Facebook ‘Like’ button sends the fact that you’ve visited that page back to Facebook, which can use this information to make sure you only see advertisements on Facebook which are relevant to your interests. This occurs whether you decide to ‘Like’ the page or not.
- This website “Does” set targeting cookies. These cookies are used to deliver adverts more relevant to you and your interests. They are also used to limit the number of times you see an advertisement as well as help measure the effectiveness of the advertising campaign. They are usually placed by advertising networks with the website operator’s permission. They remember that you have visited a website and this information is shared with other organisations such as advertisers. Quite often targeting or advertising cookies will be linked to site functionality provided by the other organisation.
We hope that this policy has helped you to understand cookies and the way we use them within our website.
If you would like more information on cookies and the law, here is some official further reading:
The ICO’s Official Article on Cookies: http://www.ico.gov.uk/for_organisations/privacy_and_electronic_communications/the_guide/cookies.aspx
A PDF of the ICC UK Cookie Guide: