Last Updated: February 20th, 2015

The Cookie Law is a piece of privacy legislation that requires websites to get consent from visitors to store or retrieve any information on a computer, smartphone or tablet.

It was designed to protect online privacy, by making consumers aware of how information about them is collected and used online, and give them a choice to allow it or not.

It started as an EU Directive that was adopted by all EU countries in May 2011. Each country then updated its own laws to comply. In the UK this meant an update to the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations.

All websites owned in the EU or targeted towards EU citizens, are now expected to comply with the law.

Why Cookie Law?

Almost all websites use cookies – litte data files – to store information in peoples’ web browsers. Some websites contain hundreds of them.

There are other technologies, like Flash and HTML5 Local Storage that do similar things, and these are also covered by the legislation, but as cookies are the most common technology in use, it has become known as the Cookie Law.

What it Means For Business

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.

However, non-compliance could also have other, perhaps more serious consequences than enforcement.  There is plenty of evidence that consumers avoid engaging with websites where they believe their privacy is at risk, and there is a general low level of trust about web tracking by the use of cookies.

The Cookie Law Explained was last modified: July 30th, 2015 by Christopher Noble