Digital Marketing News – How Does The Updated Cookie Guidance Impact Outside The UK?


Well we’ve reached the halfway point for the implementation of the new EU cookie directives and, after having kept very quiet since the announcement was made, the ICO have published a rather hefty document giving an update on their guidance.

Having read through all 27 pages of the document, it does give some very useful advice with practical examples and is a must read for anyone who is responsible for making sure their websites are compliant.

The main areas to focus on are the ones that cover how the law places responsibility for ensuring users understand what cookies are and how they work on the website owner.  It also states clearly that obtaining consent from users requires a clear indication of choice following specific communication prior to the collection of any data through the use of cookies.

There is also some clearer guidance around the use of analytics data, one area which was giving most of us a real cause for concern. The guidance states that as long as the data does not involve the collection of any personally identifiable information then for now it won’t be a focus for the ICO. This is good news and means we can continue to use analytics without the fear of breaking the new laws.

However, although the guidance is starting to become more clear and there are many sites that have broken it down into the most important updates, what concerns me is the fact that the ICO have drafted it in apparent isolation without a formal agreement with its EU counterparts.

It alludes to some collaboration and sharing of best practice but for the most part our guidance is specific to the UK. We’ve already seen how the law has been implemented in other EU countries and in some cases a more extreme view has been taken. So what does this mean for website owners whose audience stretches outside of the UK? And for websites based outside of the UK which have a UK user base?

Will we have to follow the guidance laid out in each country including adhering to each variation depending on where the user is based? Implementing the directive differently in different countries could cause a lot more headaches than we first thought, and the lack of firm agreement across all countries affected could create a lot of confusion and lead to an unintentional breach.

Given that US companies have been told that they need to comply with EU law if they have a customer base here then we can assume we will all be held to the same account. But with nearly 30 countries in the EU, that’s potentially just as many different versions of the guidance to comply with.

The ICO have reaffirmed their position around supporting those who are trying to comply and won’t start bringing action against non-compliant site the second we hit May 26th 2012.  But we are still a long way from getting a firm handle on how to implement the changes and what the impact will be on our users.

Read the full guidance on the ICO website as well as a recent blog post giving an update on the organisation’s position.

You can also listen to Daniel’s interview with Nick Stringer, Director of Regulatory Affairs at the Internet Advertising Bureau.

Written by Felice Ayling


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