A Look at Cookies
Cookies perform functions and provide information that helps website users, businesses, publishers, and advertisers. This article looks at what cookies are, what they do, and the legislation that affects how they are used.
What Are Cookies?
Current EU legislation states that all websites must let people know when cookies are in use. Website visitors should also be given the option to accept cookies or not and should be allowed to browse a website and experience the functionality even if they choose not to accept the cookies.
What Are Cookies For?
Cookies are supposed to help users to access a website more quickly and easily by telling a website that a visitor has been there before. For example, cookies can store information that allows a repeat visitor to access a website without logging in, or fill in a form (autofill) without a person having to type all the details in. Cookies can also provide information to help with website shops, analytics and can help advertisers.
Types of Cookies
There are several different types of website cookies. These include:
- First-party cookies. These are set by the website and are used for analytics data gathering (for analytics tools) e.g. the number of visitors, page views, pages visited, and sessions. These cookies provide data to publishers and advertisers for ad targeting.
- Third-Party Cookies. These cookies are used when other, third-party elements e.g. chatbots or social plugins have been added to a website. These cookies, set by domains, can track users, and save data that can be used in ad targeting and behavioural advertising.
- Session cookies, as the name suggests, are temporary, short-lived and expire immediately or shortly after a user leaves a web browser. They are commonly used by e-commerce websites to remember the items have been placed in the shopping cart, to keep users logged in, and to record user sessions to help with analytics.
- Persistent Cookies. These cookies must have a built-in expiration date but can stay on a user’s browser for years (or until a user manually deletes them) in order to track a user and their interaction with a website over time.
- Secure Cookies. Websites with HTTPS set secure cookies. These cookies have encrypted data and are used on payment/checkout pages of e-commerce websites or online banking websites.
What Is The 'Cookie Law'?
The so-called ‘cookie law’, which began life as an EU Directive, is privacy legislation that requires websites to ask visitors for consent to store or retrieve information on a computer, smartphone, or tablet.
The Cookie Law was widely adopted in 2011, became an update to the UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, and was designed to make people aware of how the information about them is collected online and to give them the opportunity to say yes or no to it.
The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in May 2018 with its focus on ensuring that businesses are transparent and protect individual privacy rights means that businesses must be able to prove clear and affirmative consent to process personal data and people must be able to opt-in rather than opt-out. These aspects have clear implications for cookies.
GDPR Cookie Consent