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It’s crunch time!

Cookies have long worked unseen in the background, facilitating B2B marketing by underpinning useful tools such as Analytics, Conversion tracking, Shopping Carts, Remarketing and Personalisation – improving conversion rates and enhancing the customer experience. They’re small files, downloaded to the end-user’s browser allowing a website to recognise that user’s device when he or she returns. Now, thanks to legal changes, cookies are under the spotlight.

Visitors to your site receive cookies every time they visit. The problem is that few internet users are aware of this fact, and in May 2011 the UK enacted an EU directive that every visitor must receive clear information about what cookies are in use and sites must obtain explicit consent before using them. On 26th May 2012 the UK’s 12 month grace period ended and the ICO has pledged that those adopting a “wait and see” approach are at most risk of enforcement action.

Sites that are low-traffic, using cookies for insensitive information such as Analytics are more likely to slip under the ICO’s radar (initially!) But higher profile sites run the risk of the cost, not least the embarrassment that prosecution brings.

The ICO’s latest advice is that from May 26th 2012, ‘all UK websites must offer users opt-in consent tools to allow cookies that pass information about browsing activities to 3rd parties.’

This means that you can only use cookies, or similar devices, if you have:
1. first obtained the user’s consent, and
2. provided clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of the cookies

Take a look at the ICO’s guide to see exactly how the cookie crumbles.

And the penalty for non-compliance? According to James Ball’s article ‘How will the new law on cookies affect internet browsing?’ (www.guardian.co.uk) ‘Sites which do not comply with the new rules face fines of up to £500,000, levied by the information commissioner’.

For marketing managers, the personal repercussions could be far-reaching. Besides embarrassment, damaging your company’s reputation could severely limit your career prospects. And wouldn’t the prospect of disciplinary proceedings for breach of privacy just take the biscuit?

Being clear and up-front about your use of cookies shows users that your company is transparent, responsible and a trustworthy organisation to do business with.

“If websites are open and honest about how they work, if the mechanisms for exercising user choices are integrated into the presentation and user experience of the site, the users will be more confident about using the site and more comfortable with how websites collect and use information derived from their online behaviour.” ICO, Guidance on the rules on use of cookies and similar technologies

Don’t be cookie complacent…

So how do you go about keeping the ICO’s lawyers from your door? As a bare minimum, you should beef up your privacy policy and make it prominent on your site. For a more robust approach, you must obtain users’ consent up-front before placing any cookies on their computer.

AdStorm has the solution

AdStorm can quickly and cost-effectively audit your site to establish what cookies are in use. We also supply a piece of Javascript code that informs your end-users in clear, but unobtrusive way and allows them to opt in or out of cookies.

Contact AdStorm for help with cookie compliance, or any aspect of making the web work for you.

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AdStorm Limited | Charter House | Sandford Street | Lichfield | WS13 6QA | T: 08456 444 567 | E: [email protected]