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New EU regulations on the use of website tracking technologies such as cookies came into force on Sunday, but the cookie guidelines for British websites were altered by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) just 48 hours prior, drastically changing the ICO’s stance on user’s consent.

Designed to tackle privacy issues resulting from the growing use of cookies across the web, in May 2011 Brussels introduced amendments to the 2003 EU e-privacy directive, requiring website owners to gain the consent of users for the use of tracking technologies.

The ICO had given British websites a year’s grace period to comply with the new legislation which expired this weekend. A recent study from KPMG showed that 95 per cent of organisations have yet to comply with the legislation. With the ICO now able to exact a fine of up to £500,000, some have warned that many businesses risk going bust through both total and non-compliance with the law.

With many UK website owners relying on cookies to store data required to run the website, such as shopping baskets and other preferences, the ICO updated their advice on using cookies, stating that websites can assume that users have consented to the use of them through using the website itself, shifting the responsibility to the user, rather than the website operator.

Whilst this may come as a relief to many British website owners who have struggled to implement the necessary changes in order to comply with the law, to rely on implied consent for cookies, the site owner must be sure that the user’s actions equate to an explicit request for content or services resulting in an indirect agreement that in order to provide those services that the use cookies must take place.

Whilst this is highly subjective, to be confident in this regard, the website owner must ensure that clear and relevant information is easily available to users explaining in full the nature of tracking technologies occurring through use of the site.

As the debate on legal compliance is likely to go on for some time, and the issue of implied consent seems to be open to interpretation, at Receptional we have updated our privacy policy to show complete transparency on the use of cookies, and the protection of visitor data, and have published a list of all cookies used on our site, clearly explaining the purpose of each.

Receptional Cookie Policy

If you would like to know more about the use of cookies, how to identify those used within your site, as well as the creation of a cookie page, we would be delighted to help – just give us a call on 01525 715520.