Have You Been Asked to Give Cookie Consent?
What Are Cookies?
Cookies have been a around for a long time on the web. They are used by websites to personalise your experience during your visit. These small files get stored on your computer and handle things such as the items in your shopping cart, maintaining your site preferences or for storing your login status. Usually, their use is intended to improve your visit and in general without them, the site will often not work. These are usually known as first party cookies and relate specifically to the website your are visiting.
However cookies can also be used in a way that has nothing to do with improving your experience. Cookies can also be used to track your journey across the web from site to site. In this way, organisations can build up a profile of your interests that can be used for targeted marketing. We have all visited one site only to have it presented back to us in a side bar advert on another site. This latter usage is considered an invasion of privacy, particularly if you are not made aware that you are being tracked in this way. These cookies are known as third party cookies and are often issued by other web services such as Facebook, Google or other advertisers not from the site you are on.
In May 2011, the EU introduced EU-wide privacy legislation, known as the Cookie Law, which enforces all EU based sites to inform you about the cookies they are using on their site and what these cookies are designed to do. The law expects the information provided will contain clear and detailed information about the site’s cookie use and ask you to acknowledge your consent to their use during your visit. Some sites are quite sophisticated and can block particular cookies you don’t like during your visit that will not impair your experience. But many do not, and so may block or provide limited access to the site if you do not provide your full consent to allow all of the cookies.
It’s About Having A Choice
The important thing to note is that all EU based websites must provide you with a choice and they must provide it before you can use the website fully. This often means being immediately presented with a prompt such as a banner somewhere on the site that can be dismissed by agreeing (or clicking the close box), or disagreeing. In agreeing you will have provided implied consent since you have not explicitly indicated, or been given the option, to accept or deny particular cookies. Explicit consent would be given if you were provided opportunity to specifically agree to each cookie or cookie type. This is generally considered time consuming and a bad user experience. Since the law does not mandate it, most websites use implied consent. Implied consent however, where no prompt is presented, is no longer considered adequate. The other point of note that is that if you are not provided with sufficient information or not prompted, then that company may be breaking the law. You could complain via the ICO or potentially take action against the owner if they are in the EU. Although the latter is very unlikely to be successful.
It’s Your Decision