All UK websites have been given until 26th May to ensure that all visitors are able to give ‘informed consent’ over cookies. However, it would appear that the majority of the UK government’s own websites will fail to comply in time.
Cookies are pieces of personal data stored when users browse the web. They help to organise and store browsing information and are increasingly being used to power targeted advertising through the gathering of data about sites visited and search terms used, these are often referred to as ‘tracking cookies’.
The Cabinet Office has said the government is ‘working to achieve compliance at the earliest possible date’.
The EU directive which is imposed in the UK by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is designed to protect internet users’ privacy. It is most likely that consent will be obtained by ticking a ‘yes’ box when visiting a site.
It is understood that the ICO will not take any action over deadline misses provided sites are ‘showing a commitment’ to eventually make changes. “The impression I’m getting from the ICO is that even if there are complaints and you’re found not to be compliant, unless it can be shown your intent was to avoid compliance, then they would work with you,” said Mike MacAuley from the Local Government Association, which has hosted discussions on the issue.
The original deadline was set for May 2011, however the ICO decided to give firms an extra year to comply with the laws in order to avoid an ‘overnight’ change. At the time, communications minister Ed Vaizey said: “It will take some time for workable technical solutions to be developed, evaluated and rolled out so we have decided that a phased in approach is right.”
The ICO’s Mr Evans has said there will not be a team of investigators seeking out infringing sites, but that the ICO will act on complaints. “How likely it is that complaints will flood in, we don’t know,” he said. “It may be that the great British public simply isn’t that concerned about cookies.”
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