Cookies are small files that are used by website owners to speed up the user experience, it’s something we all live with as website users, if cookies didn’t exist the fluidity of our internet use would be affected. A cookie is a file that is downloaded to a user’s computer that enables the website to recognise it and display previously viewed content (such as items in a shopping basket, previously viewed items and logging in information).

Cookies come in various types. Session cookies are only present whilst the user is browsing the website and enable the website to remember selections that the user has made. Persistent cookies remain on the users’ machine after the website has been exited and will generally remain active for a set period of time, these enable the website to recognise the return of the user and recall selections that the user had made on their last visit.

Last year (May 2011) the law changed, the ICO (Information Commissioners Office) is charged with ensuring that website owners notify all visitors that the website that they are on uses cookies and will place cookies on the users’ machine. The ICO is due to begin enforcing this EU directive in May 2012.

The new legislation designed to protect users’ privacy online will force website owners to only use cookies if the visitor has been provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes for which the cookie is used and has given their consent. The only circumstances where consent is not required is where the cookie is essential to the service being requested by the user – this is very much open to interpretation.

Failure to comply can result in fines of up to £500,000 and so ignore the warning with peril.

In order to comply we are advising our clients that all cookies that serve no purpose relating to a specific service requested by the client be removed. Terms and conditions and privacy policies are updated to explain the use of cookies on their particular website and finally include a static banner advising that cookies are used on this website which will direct through to the modified terms.

If you have concerns that your website may be using cookies and you are not already an Ascensor client then please contact us for Free Expert Advice, if you are already a client then we will be in contact with you shortly, if the change in the law affects you.

Ascensor provide web design, Leeds and London

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