In a rather extended tea break when you are free to enjoy your cookies, the UK Information Commissioner’s Office has given UK websites a year’s time to put into practice the EU’s controversial cookie law. The EU’s directive, which was supposed to come into force in May 2011, asks for the user’s consent for using cookies.
Even though it extends to all websites in the UK, the government is sitting on it to find a more user-friendly solution to the directive. Cookies help users to login to websites, add items to a shopping cart, and save preferences for specific websites. But these innocent looking pieces of information about the sites you visited and the amount of time spent there, besides the exact pages you browsed, can be a goldmine in the hands of third-party sites.
In fact, these third-party sites are the ones that bombard you with small banner adverts on some websites. And over time, they can create a profile of your online identity.
A question of security over functionality
But both sides of the coin have put the government in a tight spot and it is looking for a “business-friendly” solution to the problem. It is with this intent that they are working with browser developers to embed proper cookie settings that can regulate this problem. Popular browsers like the latest version of Firefox from Mozilla and IE9 from Microsoft already have settings to screen you from personal information stealing rogue websites. Even Google is working towards this end.
How this changes things for your browsing experience
Once the new law comes into force next year, the opening page of every website will ask you to either accept or reject their cookies. However, rejecting the cookies can make the browsing experience a lot more irritating. Endless pop-ups while browsing can be a hassle and this is a cause of growing concern for online firms that don’t want to turn off users once the law comes into force. The onus of policing this directive has fallen on the Information Commissioner’s Office and not adhering to it can lead to a fine of up to £ 500,000. The ICO has already updated guidelines for the websites to follow. This is to make the website owners get a clearer picture of what kind of cookies are exempted. And with only 6 more months left, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has urged the site owners to get to work on the compliance issues.
Websites will now need to ask permission to drop cookies
This comes from a recent study about companies’ compliance with the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which saw many firms faring badly. More often than not, websites are failing to ask consent for cookies from the users. Another noteworthy statement that Graham has made is that no enforcement action will be taken against those firms that are still trying to get there but are not yet compliant when the law finally kicks in. This is at least a breather for all those early starters.
[via BBC Tech]
Image by gretchichi