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New EU Privacy and Cookie Laws

In May 2011 a new privacy law came was brought into effect across the EU, which forces websites to seek 'informed consent' from its visitors before using certain cookies.

Published on Wednesday, July 16th 2014


In May 2011 a new privacy law came was brought into effect across the EU, which forces websites to seek 'informed consent' from its visitors before using certain cookies. However, due to the complexity of this businesses were given a 1 year grace period to comply with this new law. This grace period expired on the 26th of May.

Despite these warnings however, it has been reported that 4 out of 5 websites are still not complying with these new regulations.

Many companies have waited until the deadline before making any changes, as the specific of the regulations were still being finalised the day before the grace period expired.


While the ICO has the power to impose fine of up to £500,000 for breaches of this new law, it is likely that these sorts of fines will only be used in the most serious of cases, and the first step would be a compliance letter from the ICO. The ICO has made it clear they don't intend to start penalising people straight away, and that their real focus is on 3rd party tracking (notably advertising) rather than cookies that are integral to a site punctuality, such as storing products in your shopping cart, and remembering your login.

What we suggest:

The easiest way to comply with the new regulations is to seek implied consent from your visitors. This is the route that the ICO suggested last week and that many sites such as the Guardian website has taken, they have added a banner near the top of the site which states "This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Find out more here". The link then points to their cookie policy page.

Further information:

What are cookies?

Most websites (around 92% of all websites) use cookies which are small text files stored on your computer, these can then be used by websites for a variety of purposes, including login systems, storing shopping cart items, remembering preferences, tracking visitors and more.

Who are the ICO?

The Information Commissioner’s Office is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Why have these changes been brought in?

The new law is intended to help protect people's privacy. For example, if you search for "cars" in Google, they uses cookies to remember this. Later in the day, on another website, Google may target car ads at you because they remember who you are. This might not sound too scary until you think how many thousands of searches you do on Google

The contents of this article are not legal advice; if you would like to ensure you are fully compliant please contact your solicitor.

If you have any further questions please contact Tom, on 01722 346402, or email him at [email protected].

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