News & Blog

ICO Looking To Change Cookie Laws?

By Francis West on 28th July 2016

If you’ve ever found it annoying to see the banner appear on a website warning you that cookies are being used and requesting your consent or a click on the ‘X’ then you may be relieved to know that the Information Commissioner’s Office is looking to make changes to the cookie law that could mean fewer of these warnings.

What Is the Cookie Law?

The so called ‘cookie law’ (which began life as an EU Directive) was widely adopted in 2011 and became an update to the UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. The cookie law is a privacy measure that 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 visible aspect of this law is the banner that appears at the top of s a website. This also somewhat ironically means that a cookie is placed on your computer so you don’t see the banner the next time you visit the website.

An ICO study found that 94% of UK websites now feature these banners or warnings and that UK websites place an average of 44 cookies on your first visit. These figures mean that we in the UK have more cookies and more cookie warnings than many other European countries.

Why The Re-Think By the ICO?

Despite the ICO enforcing the law for the last 5 years they have now submitted suggestions to the EU’s Consultation for some changes for the following reasons:

  • In some cases the impact on a person’s privacy is likely to minimal and therefore consent banners may not be necessary.

  • The warning / consent banners themselves actually use cookies. This means that they require some personal information to operate and therefore don’t appear to be providing the level of protection that users may think they do.

What Kind of Changes?

The ICO appear to be in favour of changes that achieve a balance between the privacy rights of individuals and the information interests of business and society services. This means that the ICO would favour exemptions to the cookie law where there is minimal impact to a person’s privacy, but have rejected the EU’s suggestion of a cookie-free version of website content where the individual’s ‘choice’ would be to stop viewing the page.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

A change in the cookie law is unlikely to have a huge commercial impact in the UK although exemptions may mean that website visitors have a better experience when visiting the company website. If subtle changes are made to the cookie law it could of course mean that changes will need to be made to the cookie banner and when / how / if it is displayed.

This could mean that you will need to consult your web hosting company.