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EU introducing tough laws on cookies

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Thursday March 10, 2011 )

Online business is likely about to get a whole lot harder for some UK publishers, affiliates and advertisers due to new laws relating to cookies.

The Information Commissioner’s Office has recently issued a “wake up call” to web site owners regarding new laws on the usage of cookies used to collect data.

The new regulations will come into effect on May 25 and will require UK businesses and other organizations to obtain consent from visitors to their websites in order to store and retrieve usage information from users’ computers.

Cookies are used for all sorts of purposes, such as remembering a visitor, web analytics, storing shopping cart session information, tracking affiliate referrals and for delivering personalized content and advertising.

From what I’ve read, the guidelines and best practices involved with the new law still aren’t clear; i.e., *when* will consent need to be asked for and *how*. There has been some mention of it being a browser based setting.

Given the confusion and lack of guidelines, the Information Commissioner’s Office says it will not take action in the short term against businesses and organizations as they work out how to address their use of cookies.

How generous of them.

If I was an affiliate in the U.K., I’d be particularly nervous about how this was all going to work as cookies play an integral part of referral tracking. While cookies aren’t perfect tracking devices, they have served the affiliate marketing industry well for many years. Other forms of tracking are useful too, but as an adjunct to cookies, not to replace them altogether.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will be implementing the new laws in the UK while the ICO will have the task of regulation.

You can read more of the Information Commissioner’s Office “wake-up call” here (PDF).


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