“The Cookie Law”: Cookie Consent within the European Union

Back in May 2011 all European Union countries adopted a EU directive which gave people the right to refuse the use of cookies online (“The Cookie Law”). Throughout the EU countries this has resulted in varying degrees of changes to laws and meant that websites have to do something about it.

What does it mean?

Since 2011 this has meant slightly different things in each EU country. Among the quickest to adopt a strict standard was the United Kingdom which for a while made it clear that websites were not allowed to set cookies unless the user specifically allowed them.

Since, this has been relaxed to allow the by now fairly common approach to showing a notice that the site is using cookies and ask the user to leave, or disable cookies if he does not accept this.

In other countries, such as in Sweden, the regulators felt they didn’t have a good solution to enforce and left it up to the industry to come up with one. As you’d expect, the industry doesn’t like this change and did little about it. Now however, more companies are using the cookie notice and it is likely only a matter of time before this will be seen as the best practice solution.

By now, we can conclude that websites are beginning to have very little choice but to start adopting this.

What should you do then?

There are varying methods and approaches to this, but two things that you should to do comply with this regulation are thee following:

  1. Tell users that you are using cookies
  2. Have a policy that outlines how you are using cookies and which cookies are being used

The first pretty much means using a cookie banner. Whether you put this fixed at the top, at the bottom or however you design it, the important thing is that it is clear to the user, and for usability, can be collapsed easily.

We favor the nicely designed, unobtrusive banners that don’t take up too much room and fit with the page, instead of feeling like unwanted add-ons.

If you’re using WordPress, we have a very lightweight and developer-friendly little plugin (Ilmenite Cookie Consent) that does just this that you can install which works out of the box.

The second thing is to actually write a cookie policy. Let users know how you are using cookies and let them know exactly which cookies are set and why.

By doing this, you should be in full compliance with the cookie law and nowadays, with privacy being even more in the news, there are good reasons to believe that users are starting to see this as positive, even more so in some countries.

Summary: Comply!

To sum up, the short sentence is: You need to comply.
Use a nicely integrated and designed cookie banner and have a clear cookie policy stating why you use cookies, how you use them and specifically list which cookies are being used.

Photo by Ginny, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.