How are you getting on with Cookie compliance?

So how are you getting on with complying with the new Cookie legislation? Things are still a little sketchy (understatement) as to what we all need to be doing - and so far there have been and no doubt there will continue to be, a mix of interpretations and stand offs.cookie law compliance eu legislation

As one who is now getting asked by clients as to what they should be doing about the EU Cookie Law - and indeed, one needing to update our own sites in line with legislation - then I thought I'd share a few  of my findings (and views).

I found this post really useful from the Econsultancy Blog.  The post showcases examples of Cookie compliance from the BBC, The Guardian, The Telegraph and Channel 4.  Each providing excellent examples of different ways to showcase use of Cookies.

In the 11th hour - before the Cookie Law came into play (May 26th) - the ICO (Information Commissioner's Office) came out with a shift in how the Cookie Law translates from a user perspective.  That shift is 'Implied Consent'. So whereas when the legislation originally came out the site owners were totally responsible for transparency and visibility at all stages of Cookies use - now the fact that a User is using a site (and let's face it a high percentage of sites, particularly those with ecommerce functions, will use Cookies) the sheer nature of them using the site is 'Implied Consent' for use of Cookies.  So shifting responsibility to the 'user' - rather than the website owner. Or does it?

This video a useful Q&A from the ICO doesn't really tie up many of the loose ends. However, it does provide practical steps for website owners to take to at least show that they are considering cookies and user transparency.

To summarise, it would seem that for now organisations should at least be doing:

  1. A Cookie Audit - an audit of how cookies are used on the site.  This is effectively the starting point - as once you're clear on how and what is used, then you can start to plan how you comply with the absolute minimum impact to usability and sales and conversion processes.
  2. Add clear links to Cookie policies.  Most sites will cover off use of Cookies in the depths of the Privacy statements anyway. Therefore, perhaps adding a specific 'About Cookies' section to your Privacy statement is enough to get started with. (Don't take it from me, but that's what we've done!).
  3. Informing users of the information that the site uses - well once you've done your Cookie Audit and you're clear, then there are many ways you can communicate this - once again, in the About Cookies section of your Privacy statement - or perhaps turning it into a brand nurture exercise as Channel 4 did - (we love this video of Alan Carr explaining data use - entertaining, engaging, transparent - and covers everything it needs to). Given that video is such a powerful media, then perhaps think about use of video for explaining your use of Cookies. You can then include a Link in your 'About Cookies' section to showcase your video explaining all about it. Plus add it to your blog - newsfeeds etc.
  4. Creating a consent mechanism seems key on the ICO agenda - however, this is much trickier. Let's be realistic, I'm having a kitchen extension at the moment (groan but it will eventually be great) - and although I am a keen online shopper, I've been online shoppingtastic over the last couple of weeks. Quite honestly,  I have made more than 40 purchases of one thing or another online from probably 20 different sites. Where does a 'consent mechanism' sit? At the checkout, as you enter each site, for each item that is saved in a basket? This is where it gets tricky.  And indeed, not just tricky but damn dangerous for online sales.  Surely in these austere times we should be making it as simple as possible to trade online - not adding in unnecessary additional 'clicks and cautions' - that confuse users or just take too much time or become annoying to the degree that they 'switch off'.

I work with a number of online businesses and part of the intention of providing a quick, simple and excellent service - is all about making it as simple as possible for the user. Eradicating unnecessary steps - by watching and tracking behaviour and listening to our customers (yes, Cookies will be used in determining these key business insights) - that enables my clients to deliver better solutions and a better service to their customers - so it's a win win scenario. Optimisation, optimisation, optimisation.

It will therefore, be interesting to see how this all plays out - and part of how it 'plays out' will be down to how the ICO intend to enforce compliance. Will they shut sites down for non compliance? What's the penalty?

I get the feeling this hasn't really been thought through. Have online retailers been consulted as part of the legislation development process? Where did this legislation arise from?  As I said at the beginning - it's all still sketchy. However, we at Carvill Creative have been good girls and boys and we did undertake a Cookie Audit. It transpires that our site only uses cookies for internal admins to access our content management system.  However, we do use Google Analytics on our site (as every conscientious site owner should) - and so clearly, that must use cookies - so who's responsible for that - we or Google?  The ICO doesn't really make it clear  on how one manages that? However, we have added in the fact that we use Analytics into our About Cookies statement.

So based on what we have watched and learned so far, we have updated our Cookies and Privacy page with a very transparent, honest and simple message.  Until we learn more - we 'think' we've done what we need to.

Views, news and tips on how you're dealing with Cookie compliance (or not) sincerely welcomed ;)

@Michelle Carvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative – the online visibility experts. A digital marketing and design agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of online visibility - covering social media marketing and social media training, user focused website planning and conversion focused website design.

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