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The 1-Minute Guide
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More Detailed Information
When did the law change and who enforces it?
The original EU legislation that became known as the “E-Privacy Directive“ was published in 2003 and implemented as European Directive - 2002/58/EC. It was concerned quite widely with the protection of privacy in the electronic communications sector. In 2009 the Directive was amended by Directive 2009/136/EC that included a requirement to seek consent for cookies and similar technologies. The EU Directive entered UK law on 26th May 2011 as “The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011”. It is regulated by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) www.ico.gov.uk who decided that enforcement would commence from 26th May 2012.
What are cookies?
A cookie is used by a website to send 'state information' to a User's browser and for the browser to return the state information to the website. The state information can be used for authentication, identification of a User session, User preferences, shopping cart contents, or anything else that can be accomplished through storing text data on the User's computer.
Cookies cannot be programmed, cannot carry viruses, and cannot install malware on the host computer. However, they can be used to track user's browsing activities which was a major privacy concern that prompted European and US law makers to take action.
Cookies are used by most websites for a variety of reasons - often very practical reasons to do with the operation of the website. However, they are also used to monitor how people are using the website (which pages are visited and how long is spent on each page). Each "visitor session" is tracked even though no effort is made to try to identify them in person.
The new legislation now states that you must be able to opt-out from having cookies stored on their computer.
What happens if you disable cookies (i.e. opt-out)?
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- If you delete all your cookies you will have to tell us your preference again
- If you use a different device, computer profile or browser you will have to tell us your preference again
What happens if you ignore the question?
If you ignore the question the website will continue to set cookies as necessary. This approach of "implied opt-in" is specifically discussed and approved in the guidance notes issued by the Information Commissioner's Office (the organisation charged with enforcement of this legislation).