Websites unprepared for 'cookie' law
18 April 2012
by Luke Thomas
Many popular UK websites appear to be unprepared for the introduction of an EU-mandated law regulating the tracking of user activities, studies have shown.
The new directive requires site operators to fully inform their visitors about ‘cookies’ – chunks of data about the user’s actions which the website may store for later use. This data is often used for such purposes as remembering when a user is logged in or if they have added items to a shopping cart, but concerns arose over the potential for abuse through long-term monitoring of a user’s online history.
In order to ensure a safe and fair online experience for site visitors, the Information Commissioner’s Office is to put in place new rules on cookie transparency on the 26th of May. This will require sites to inform their visitors that the cookies are present and why, and require them to approve the use of their data in this way.
While it may seem a step forward in ensuring appropriate data protection, research by online privacy firm Truste has found that a single page on a website contains an average of 14 such cookies, after a study that explored the use of the tracking tools on the UK’s most visited sites.
Dave Deasy, VP of marketing at Truste, said that the number of cookies on these sites constituted an “area of question and scrutiny”, suggesting that users should be informed as to what is being done with their data.
However, the new legislation has met with criticism from those who fear that users will be confused by the warnings and refuse to allow their data to be tracked.
The professional services firm KPMG found in a study that 95% of UK companies surveyed were still not prepared for the new law, which comes into force in less than 40 days.