Cookie Law: What Is It? How Do Companies Comply With Cookie Regulations?

Have you ever gone on a website and gotten a little pop up box that asks your permission to use “cookies?” That website is probably already complying with the European Cookie Laws.

Website cookies come with various rules, laws, and regulations. Laws enforced in the European Union (EU) are commonly known as the “Cookie Law,” which states that you can’t track users without consent. There are countless grey areas with these types of laws; however, they all clearly state that users must provide consent before tracking. In the past, many forms of consent came from very vague and almost unreadable Privacy Policies. Users accepted almost any Terms of Service (TOS) or Privacy Policies (usually without actually reading them) have allowed that application to track their history. For instance, Google’s Privacy Policy has consent to track everything from your default languages to your Wi-Fi access points.

But, What is a Cookie?

The term “cookie” is a storage of data (like logins, previous searches, or items in a shopping cart) on a local machine (your computer, smartphone, or tablet), which is sent to a specified server (usually the server of the website you’re using). This data is stored in text strings. This entire process is actually very simple and non-intrusive towards the user’s experience. Here’s a step-by-step view of how cookies work:

1. User loads up a new webpage
2. The website’s server interacts with the user’s browser
3. Cookies will be downloaded onto the user’s browser, saving bits of information in the browser
4. Various tracking data will be stored within the cookie that is saved in the browser
5. After new data is refreshed, the cookie data is sent to the website’s server

Through this cookie process, the user sends bits of information (in text string format) to the website’s server. This data can be viewed in many forms of online tools and applications, such as Google Analytics.

Is There More Than One “Flavor” of Cookies?

Most cookies are established to improve the user’s current experience and future interaction. The most common types of cookies are session, permanent, or third-party cookies. Session cookies are used to track data during short periods. For example, a website can track checkout data while you shop for more items. Additionally, permanent cookies are used to store long term data such as login credentials. Third-party cookies are commonly used for understanding user’s session behavior and interaction.

Who Needs to Comply with the Cookie Law?

The majority of United States websites won’t need to comply with any regulations related to the Cookie Law, unless you have a target audience in Europe. Any factors that relate to European users should consider compliance with the EU Cookie Law. All cookie information must be promptly presented and allow the user to decline or accept cookies. It’s all about simplistic, outlined cookie information, which is displayed before the user continues to navigate the website. In your permission request, avoid jargon, overly complicated explanations, or long paragraphs of information. Simply ask the user if they give you permission to use cookies while on the site and perhaps provide a resource if they need more information before proceeding.

This Won’t be Simple

Compliance with Cookie Law regulations isn’t simple. Many websites that need to comply with Cookie Law will require sitewide code alterations. The website’s code, server, and user’s browser must interact cohesively to prevent cookies from automatically collecting information. In theory, any code or server settings that track user’s behavior and information will need to be reconfigured to comply with the Cookie Law. Authorities have been clear in stating that “…you need to adapt if you want to respect the law.

Have questions about cookie regulations? Does your company need to comply with the EU Cookie Law? Please give Media Genesis a call at 248.687.7888 – let our experts assist with your cookie needs.