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EU / UK Cookie law for websites

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A cookie is a small file, typically of letters and numbers, downloaded on to a device when the user accesses certain websites. The use of cookies and similar technologies has for some time been commonplace and cookies in particular are important in the provision of many online services. Using such technologies is not, therefore, prohibited by the Regulations but they do require that people are told about cookies and given the choice as to which of their online activities are monitored in this way.

The law which applies to how you use cookies and similar technologies for storing information on a user’s equipment such as their computer or mobile device changed on 26 May 2011.

If you own a website, you will need to make sure it complies with the law, and this usually means making some changes.

If you don’t comply you risk enforcement action from regulators, which in the UK means The Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO). In exceptional cases this can mean a fine.

Compliance with the cookie law comes down to three basic steps:

  • Work out what cookies your site sets, and what they are used for, with a cookie audit
  • Tell your visitors how you use cookies.
  • Obtain their consent, such as by using plugins

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