New UK Cookie Law: 26 May 2012

On 26th May 2011, new cookie laws will come into force in the UK that will affect most web sites. This is  applicable to UK residents who have Yola sites, regardless of the type of Yola subscription they have.

What is a cookie?

Cookies are small files that websites put on your hard drive when you first visit, which acts as an identification card that's uniquely yours. Its job is to notify the site when you've returned. While it is possible to misuse a cookie in cases where there is personal data in it (take a look at this article for detailed information about this), cookies by themselves are not malicious.

Many websites use cookies. Cookies can help you be more efficient when using some websites. For example, cookies are responsible for storing online store data. Have you ever put something in a virtual shopping cart in an online store and then returned a few days later to find that the item is still there? That's an example of cookies at work. Cookies let you store preferences and user names, register products and services, and personalize pages.

However, if you never register or leave personal information at a site, then the server only knows that someone with your cookie has returned to the website. It doesn't know anything else.

What cookies does Yola place on my site?

There are two cookies on your Yola site: 
  • One placed and hosted by Yola, to track analytics and provide our users with the analytics dashboard.
  • One placed by Yola, but hosted by quantcast.com, to track aggregate visitor information across Yola hosted sites.

The new cookie law

From 26 May 2012, "if cookies are used in a site, the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) (Amendment) Regulations 2011 (UK Regulations) provide that certain information must be given to that site's visitors and the user must give his or her consent to the placing of the cookies.

The UK Regulations implemented into UK law the provisions of the amended E-Privacy Directive of 2009. The Directive required that the new laws be implemented into the laws of all EU Member States by 25th May 2011. The UK is only one of three member states to meet this deadline." (Source: AboutCookies.org)

Visit the About Cookies site to find out more about the UK Regulations, including some additional information on the E-Privacy Directive itself. Because each Member State has some discretion in how it implements a Directive, the cookie laws in other European countries may differ from those of the UK.

How does this affect my Yola site?

A last-minute change was made to this law. This change removes the requirement to have a pop-up cookie opt-in agreement for visitors to your site.

What this change supports is "implied consent". While "implied consent" does have various permutations, the basic premise is that, depending on the context, there may now be no need to get users to click a button or checkbox, as long as your users understand that using the site will result in cookies being used.

As the law is specific to the EU, and not something Yola has any control over, we encourage you to take a look at the literature available on this subject. This will give you a better idea of the original law, the changes, and what sort of wording you are required to have on your site: Please see ICO guide on Cookies.

Something that is recommended by many websites, is the addition of a Privacy Policy. This type of policy generally discloses what you do with the information your visitors provide you with. In the case of the cookie law, you could extend this Privacy Policy to include information about "implied consent" and cookie handling on your website. It's also a good idea to have a page on your website detailing what cookies are and explaining to your visitors how to manage them.

Although we are not able to assist with the creation of a Privacy Policy, we are happy to assist you with the placement of it on your site. If you do have additional questions about this law, it is recommended that legal advice be sought. 

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