Cookie law: websites must seek consent from this weekend

Cookie website lawDo you have a website and if so, does it collect cookies? A new law governing the use of cookies comes into force on Sunday, and companies found not to comply could be faced with a fine of up to £500,000.

Cookies are pieces of personal data stored when users browse the web, sometimes to power advertising. Watch a video outlining the new cookie law and how it affects business.

From Sunday, sites must obtain "informed consent" from visitors before saving cookies on a machine. The new EU rules are designed to tackle privacy issues resulting from the growing use of cookies, which are used to track browsing habits. Visitors must now be told what cookies are being placed on their machine, which will typically mean a pop-up window seeking their consent.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is to launch a tool for the public to report non-compliant sites. The owners of non-compliant websites face fines of up to £500,000, but the ICO has played down the threat of such serious action, telling the BBC it would take a soft approach to enforcement.

"Up until now, if we received a complaint about your website we would point you in the direction of our guidance," said Dave Evans, group manager for the ICO. "Given that everyone has had a year [to comply], we’re going to shift from that kind of approach to one which will be very much more focused on those people who don’t appear to have done anything and asking them ‘why not?’‘"

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