Online PR and Marketing, THE BLOG

Do You Have A Website? COOKIES: Why Does The Law Care About Cookies And What They Are?


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Written by Yvonne Morris, A Commercial Law Consultant.

Monday Yvonne spoke about why and how the law has changed, today she explains:

WHAT IS A COOKIE?

A cookie is a small file, typically of letters and/ or numbers which is placed/ downloaded on to a user’s device or browser when a user visits a website. It can store and transmit information to the server of websites (re)visited from that browser/ device.

WHY ARE THEY USED?

Cookies are widely used in order to make websites work, or work more efficiently, as well as to provide information to the owners of the website. Cookies do lots of different and useful jobs like letting a user navigate between pages efficiently, remembering a user’s preferences and generally improving a user’s browsing experience. Cookies can also be used to customise areas of online content to be more tailored to a user’s interests. When a user (re)visits a website that uses the same cookies, those cookies and the browsing device, are recognised.

A COOKIE AUDIT?

One of the two strict requirements under the Regs other than (1) requiring user consent, is that for each cookie used, the website owner must (2) have “provided clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of the storage of, or access to, that information” to a user (the “Requirement/s”). This means ensuring that you include accurate and clear information about each cookie in your Privacy Policy or preferably, provide a separate Cookie Policy. Complying with this Requirement is likely to require a so-called cookie audit which might involve confirming:

1.     which cookies are operating on or through your website (Name of Cookie);

2.     the purpose(s) of each of these cookies (Specific Purpose);

3.     what data each cookie holds (Typical Content);

4.     whether it is a first or third party cookie (First party/ Third party);

5.     the cookie category (Cookie Category);

6.     the type of cookie i.e. session or persistent (Session/ Persistent);

7.     the lifespan of any persistent cookies (Lifespan);

Together, these can be referred to as (“Cookie Identifiers”)

There are many ways to comply with this Requirement in practice. One such way is to provide a table and insert in a number of columns inserting two or more of the Cookie Identifiers listed above in bold.

TYPES OF COOKIES

Session Cookies allow a site to link the actions of a visitor during a single browser session. They expire after a browser session and are considered “less privacy intrusive” than persistent cookies.

Persistent Cookies allow one or several sites to remember details about the visitor and remain on the user’s device between sessions. They may be used for a variety of purposes including remembering users’ preferences and choices when using a site or to target advertising.

First Party Cookies are set by the specific website visited by the user i.e. the website displayed in the URL window.

Third Party Cookies are issued by a different server to that of the domain being visited. It could be used to trigger a banner advert of a third party provider based on the visitor’s viewing habits.

COOKIE CATEGORIES

Based on the International Chamber of Commerce guide to cookie categories ICC UK cookie guide  – the type of cookie used can be put into 1 of 4 categories:

1. Strictly Necessary Cookies (essential)

2. Performance Cookies

3. Functionality & Profile Cookies

4. Targeting Cookies

Cookies in category 1 represent the limited exception to having to comply with the Requirements and these cannot be restricted or blocked and are the least intrusive cookies in terms of privacy. Cookies in categories 2, 3 and 4 can be restricted or blocked and the level of intrusiveness increases towards category 4. These cookies gather information about browsing habits and may go on to share this information with advertisers who may undertake further tailored and behavioural advertising activities on the user.

Please contact Yvonne Morris Limited (www.yvonnemorris.co.uk) if you would like further cookie advice or if you require a Privacy Policy and/ or a Cookie Policy tailored to your website. Further general information about cookies can be found at:

–       http://www.allaboutcookies.org

–       Internet Advertising Bureau: Guide to online advertising and privacy

–       International Chamber of Commerce United Kingdom: ICC UK cookie guide

–       Directgov article: Internet Browser cookies – what they are and how to manage them

–       ICO cookie guidance: Download the ICO cookies guidance (pdf)

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