How the Cookie Law will Affect Websites in Europe

Web cookies are small text files that are downloaded into visitor’s computers when they visit websites. According to Wired UK,the cookie problem gets out of hand when they do not help the visitor with security, shopping or site use. Cookies that collect information or keep tracking the visitor after they have left the site are the problem. The sheer volume of cookies that can come from just one site is frightening and may be a problem for some computers.

“According to a UK study by Trust-e, the average website has 14 cookies per page. Roughly 32 percent of these come from the website owner and 68 percent come from third party companies, which could be analytics companies or companies that deliver advertising.”

The EU cookie law came from a modification to the 2011 Privacy and Electronic Communications act. This law will force the websites to ask for the visitor’s approval before downloading nonessential cookies from third parties. This law was supposed to enhance privacy and will keep website visitors from unwanted aggressive marketing. Websites in Europe were already required to give visitors the option to refuse unwanted and nonessential cookies.

The new law would go in the opposite direction by forcing sites to request specific approval for nonessential cookies. Visitors are unlikely to approve something that they do not want. What about having to deal with and average of 14 annoying pop ups, each of which requires approval? There are alternatives to cookie approval pop ups, and business websites know it.

According to BBC News, UK sites are getting a one year deferral. The cookie law was supposed to be in effect on May 26, 2012. Websites got away with the excuse that changing everything would be too difficult.

Businesses tried use multiple pop up consent forms as an excuse but they are fully aware that there are alternatives to pop ups, like header bars or saved checklists. By May 26, 2013, business websites will not be getting away with such excuses and will be expected to comply. 

Websites started forcing visitors to accept all cookies by bundling essential and intrusive cookies into an “all or nothing” proposition. The websites would not work if all the cookies are refused. Under the EU cookie law, the websites must isolate the marketing and unneeded cookies and give the visitor a choice to refuse them. The essential cookies can download to make the site work for the visitor.

Essential cookies help with shopping baskets and checkout procedures. Others provide security for online banking services. Some cookies distribute the workload to help the page load quickly.

Nonessential cookies give tailored greetings when a visitor returns to a web page, or they are used to collect data for analysis. Some cookies keep intruding by tracking the visitor long after they have left the infecting site. The EU anti cookie bill targets cookies used for these purposes and gives a visitor the option of not having to deal with them.  

Beyond cookies, there are shared objects or “flash cookies” that are embedded and used by Adobe Flash. There are also web beacons and web bugs.