Thousands of websites in breach of new cookie law

 
Computer hard drive The cookie laws were drawn up to help privacy on the web

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Thousands of UK websites are now in breach of a law that dictates what they can log about visitors.

European laws that define what details sites can record in text files called cookies came into force on 26 May.

Cookies are widely used to customise what repeat visitors see on a site and by advertisers to track users online.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it would offer help to non-compliant sites rather than take legal action against them.

Action plan

The regulations say websites must get "informed consent" from users before they record any detailed information in the cookies they store on visitors' computers.

Among websites that have complied with the law, getting consent has involved a pop-up box that explains the changes. Users are then asked to click to consent to having information recorded and told what will happen if they refuse.

UK firms have had 12 months to prepare for the change and the ICO has spent much of that time reminding businesses about their obligations.

The ICO has also updated its policy to allow organisations to use "implied consent" to comply. This means users do not have to make an explicit choice. Instead, their continued use of a site would be taken to mean they are happy for information to be gathered.

However, it was a "concern" for the ICO that so many sites were not yet compliant, said Dave Evans, group manager at the ICO who has led its work on cookies in the last 18 months. However, he added, it was not necessarily easy for companies to comply with the laws because of the amount of work it involved.

On busy sites, he said, an audit of current cookie practices could take time because of the sheer number of cookie files they regularly issue, monitor and update.

Mr Evans said the ICO was expecting sites that were not compliant to be able to demonstrate what work they had done in the last year to get ready.

Fines for non-compliance were unlikely to be levied, he said, because there was little risk that a non-compliant site would cause a serious breach of data protection laws that was likely to cause substantial damage and distress to a user.

It was planning to use formal undertakings or enforcement notices to make sites take action, he said.

"Those are setting out the steps we think they need to take in order to become compliant and when we expect them to be taking those steps," he said. "If they comply with one of those notices or sign one of those undertakings they are committing to doing this properly and that's the main point."

As well as advising firms, the ICO has also issued guidance to the public that explains what cookies are, how to change cookie settings and how to complain if they are worried about a site's policy.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 35.

    As these sites will be acting illegally, presumably search engines like Google, Yahoo will be preventing these sites from being shown in the first place. After all, what is good enough for the likes of Pirate Bay is good enough for these non compliant sites. Both are law breakers.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 34.

    @27 Giles Jones - User information is logged by the server without cookies. Every website gets your browser/resolution/location/etc even if you have cookies disabled.

    The only difference is that each visit will be counted as unique, and not a return visit.

    @26 - Let's do it. We'll be millionaires!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 33.

    I remember writing about this for my thesis 5 years ago, even back then I was aware of the problems that cookies could generate in regards to privacy laws.

    I was and still am amazed that so many people submit to sites like Facebook being able to gather so much data on them, data that would have cost organizations thousands to gather 10 years previously, all for free. Makes my job a lot easier.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 32.

    @24 David -
    "Nothing is free, not Firefox, not Google, they don't offer free things for nothing always a reason.... where else does Google and others make make money, they're not ornaments?"

    Mozilla, who make Firefox, is a non-profit organisation so a pretty bad example for you to use.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    About time these unregulated stalker sites were prevented from spying on internet users

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 30.

    Although this law is a bit silly, I hope it opens peoples' eyes to some underworkings of the internet. For those that are disgusted that advertisers track you across all your browsing, this law is a start, but you should use SRWare Iron which is based on Chrome but has the tracking parts removed, then install the AdBlock, Ghostery and FlashBlock extensions. For added privacy, use "Incognito" mode.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 29.

    As a webmaster with several sites I have now moved them ALL to hosts/servers in Canada, where this nonsense doesn't apply

    This ill conceived law has just cost some European company about £70 a year from my lost custom - How many more, I wonder?

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 28.

    So many people have no idea what this law does. All it does is add a pointless tick box to a website - NOT CHANGE THE NUMBER OF ADDS YOU SEE. If you dont wantadds, block them at the browser. If you dont want cookies, block them at the browser. If you want to hide, use cash and live your life by proxy. It has no effect on the way marketing works, it's just part of how the web works.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 27.

    >If we behave on the Net as if we were in the High Street, what do we >have to fear?

    Nothing. But when you pop into a shop and look at something would you be happy with the shop in question then ringing up other shops telling them you have visited them and to be ready for your arrival?

    You don't tend to walk around the town with number written on your TV shirt either.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    Stardog 19, you are a genius with a criminal mind, I wish I had thogught of it, get stuck in there and clean up!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 25.

    No-one really understands this legislation, least of all the people that say "oh that's a good thing because im being fleeced by evil companies targeting marketing at me"

    The one thing it's good for is stifling innovation and increasing costs for UK internet based businesses. But, that's how this country is these days, innovation is good but not in my back yard.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 24.

    Be awfully good fun implementing, they don't have to use cookies to track folks!

    Nothing is free, not Firefox, not Google, they don't offer free things for nothing always a reason.... where else does Google and others make make money, they're not ornaments?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 23.

    This is a European Law! It is about time we had some sensible vetoes and exceptions...!!!
    It is about time governments do some cost benefit analysis to how they wish to achieve an objective. Browsers could have been changed or additional software bought and paid for by users for if privacy was their concern, not thousands of UK websites changed and what about those in countries outside of the EU?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 22.

    I am vaguely disappointed that this "cookie law" does not refer to the introduction of Free Cookie Friday.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 21.

    @PeterScheMichaelOwenHargreaves (5.)

    The law has nothing to do with the public's best interests. If it did it would be focused on the cookies that advertising banners leave on your machine to track you as you surf BETWEEN sites.

    @TEMPUS FIGHT (13.) You clearly have very little understanding of what cookies are. They don't breach DP laws as they tend to hold NO personal info and are on YOUR PC.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 20.

    Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it would offer HELP to non-compliant sites rather than take legal action against them. There will be no fines, no legal action, and by not clicking "against", persons may have already complied - this is so anaemic, it would be more merciful to simply let the patient die. A waste of Govt time!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 19.

    Cue hundreds of predatory websites, threatening to report businesses for not complying, and then charging them exorbitant fees.

    This law is a joke.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 18.

    Someone whose comment is now gone complained that the supermarkets collect information about what brand s/he buys - I think it was baked beans.

    Listen carefully: if you use cash, C-A-S-H cash, and don't use a loyalty card, Big Bad Uncle Tesco will still take your money and he won't know who you are or what you are buying!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 17.

    If anybody needs an example of pointless government legislation, this is it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 16.

    I fully support these new laws. Maybe they'll encourage businesses to stop treating the public as data that can be bought and sold. I for one am sick and tired of being marketed to morning noon and night.

 

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