Digital Marketing News – Cookie guidance has arrived! And it isn’t half bad.

 

As the deadline looms for the EU Cookie Directive on 26 May we have finally been issued with a code of conduct which aims to clarify what’s expected of website owners and lays down the penalties for those who breach it.

Unsurprisingly it hasn’t come from the Information Commissioner’s Office but from the International Chamber of Commerce. However, it by no means offers a comprehensive how to which so many organisations have been hoping for. David Evans from the ICO explained that the “ICC UK guidance provides organisations with a good starting point from which they can work towards full compliance.” Not exactly what we wanted to hear but a starting point is certainly better than previous so called guidance.

The ICC have broken down the guidance into four categories describing how to tackle each set of cookies depending on their relationship to the aspects of your website and how important they are to the user experience.

ICC Cookie Guide

ICC Cookie Guide

 

The four categories are:

 

Category 1: Strictly necessary cookies

 

Category 2: Performance cookies

 

Category 3: Functionality cookies

 

Category 4: Targeting cookies or advertising cookies

 

 

Category 1: Strictly necessary cookies

These cookies are essential in order to enable you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies services you have asked for, like shopping baskets or e-billing, cannot be provided.

Category 2: Performance cookies
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website, for instance which pages visitors go to most often, and if they get error messages from web pages.
These cookies don’t collect information that identifies a visitor. All information these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works.

Category 3: Functionality cookies
These cookies allow the website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you are in) and provide enhanced, more personal features. These cookies can also be used to remember changes you have made to text size, fonts and other parts of web pages that you can customise.

Category 4: Targeting cookies or advertising cookies
These cookies are used to deliver adverts more relevant to you and your interests They are also used to limit the number of times you see an advertisement as well as help measure the effectiveness of the advertising
campaign.

One of the most useful things the guidance does is help the reader to understand how to identify and categorise the cookies they use, giving examples of when and where they might be stored. It also attempts to give some real life examples of how to gain permission but with a realistic understanding of the impact this may have.

There is even some assistance around how to word consent requests so that users can understand what they are agreeing to.

All in all it’s a great step forward but there is undoubtedly going to be a fair amount of trial and error before we get a grip on the problem.

Dave Evans recently spoke with Econsultancy and gave an interesting insight into his take on how the new law should and could be implemented. His words were reassuring and focused on stroking a balance between providing clear information to the user and minimising the impact on the company.

He makes an interesting point around the notion of ‘implied consent’ and how this would become more reliable as time goes on. With the increase in communication around cookies, what they are and what they are used for  between website owners and their users, there will come a time when an awareness of the use of cookies becomes assumed. This will then begin to lessen the responsibility on website owners and move towards a balanced relationship.

The particularly good news is that the ICO isn’t planning to come down hard on those who fail to comply with the guidance as long as some effort has been or is being made. Instead the ICO will aim to advise companies around compliance as well as placing some responsibility on the user to educate themselves about the power they have to control data being stored about them.

Dave makes some interesting points and also talks about some examples of compliance already in place. It’s certainly worth a read and sits nicely alongside the ICCs Cookie Guide.

When there are penalties for non compliance, most of us prefer a set of rules we can follow so we know we’re covered and Dave’s statement is far from straightforward. But the clear message seems to be that the progression of the new directive needs to be a collaborative one and as long as your trying you won’t face penalties.

As the deadline gets closer we will no doubt see a lot of discussion and mixed opinions about how this will impact on our businesses, but the main message seems to be don’t panic, communication is the key.

Written by Felice Ayling

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