The EU cookie directive, or the EU cookie law as it is more commonly known, is a law that came into effect at the end of May 2012 that aims to improve data privacy and online security by giving internet users more control over what data can be held about them. The cookie law also concerns how our personal data is being used and held on the websites we visit.

The UK cookie law was designed to make it more transparent to users about what cookies are, and how they are being used by the website they are visiting. Rather than being an ‘opt-in’ system, ‘implied consent’ is considered to be a valid, more straightforward form of consent that is compliant with the new EU Cookie law. This means that websites do not have to rely on showing users a complex privacy policy, as long as they make them aware that they are engaged in actions that may result in the website setting cookies.

The law applies to all Member States of the European Union, but if a site based outside the EU is targeting visitors from inside the EU, they will also need to abide by the same laws.

The change in law will mean that practical changes need to be made to the website in order to implement an acceptable form of complied consent for their users. Cookies also play an important part in storing user preferences such as the language that the site is shown in, and storing the items that users have added to their shopping basket.

It will be possible for websites to use cookies without the use of ‘implied consent’ in instances where it is completely necessary for them to do so for website functionality (such as the shopping basket on an ecommerce website).
What are Cookies?

Cookies are small text files that websites save to your computer, allowing the services those websites provide to be more reliable, easy to use, and useful. The cookies that are stored on your device by a website, be it a desktop computer or a mobile phone, do not contain any information that can be used to identify you personally.

However, they do contain some information that is used by the website to improve your experience.
Here are some examples of how the information in cookies is used to improve the quality of service a website offers, or its general browsing experience, for you:

  • Enabling cookies allows a website to recognise your device so you don’t have to give the same data multiple times during a single task;
    • Having cookies enabled means that if you have already entered a username and password, you won’t need to do it again for every webpage that requests that information;
    • If you suffer with reading difficulties, you may want to view text on a site with a larger font. Allowing cookies will enable the website to recognise you, meaning you won’t have to change font size every time you visit the site;
    • To allow you to participate in interactive features of our service, when you choose to do so;