Are Analytics Cookies Legal? (Part 2)

5/22/2012 9:47:05 AM

Sharing info with third parties

‘Ultimately, you’re responsible for the cookies you use on your site.’


The EU legislation is about trying to protect users’ rights, putting them in control of what information companies know about them. ‘From a user’s perspective, you might have a third-party like Google who know that you’ve gone from, say, a food blog to something on some other topic, and using those third-party analytics it’d be possible to build up a broad picture of that user that the individual website operators would never know about, and have no interest in,’ Rice says; and that’s the kind of really intrusive stuff the legislation is designed to keep in check.

So if you’re using Google Analytics, one thing you might consider doing is turning off the third-party cookies. That way, the only analytics cookies on your site will be first-party – the information collected will be visible to you, but visitors won’t be tracked once they leave your site. To check or change your cookie settings, log into your Google Analytics account, and click on the gear icon on the right-hand side of the page. Click on the name of the website, then click ‘Account Settings,’ and click on ‘Do not share my Google Analytics data’ and click ‘Apply’.

You don’t have to switch those cookies off, of course – but you do need to tell visitors to your website that you’re using them, and let them make the decision about whether they want to opt out. Ultimately, you’re responsible for the cookies used on your site, so it’s your decision what you use, but you need to be open about what you’re doing.

Getting informed consent

Description: Getting informed consent

The next important thing to do, then, is to add information to your site that tells visitors what cookies you’re using. This can be tricky, since many people don’t know what cookies are or how they work. But that’s the point of this legislation, really – raising awareness so people know what their information is being used for. ‘There’ve been quite a few surveys looking into what the general public understands,’ Rice says. ‘Probably the worst thing people could do would be to switch all cookies off, and then complain that nothing works. The technology isn’t the problem; there’s nothing wrong with using cookies. It’s about how they get used.’

So you should add a privacy policy to your site, somewhere easily accessible and visible, that tells visitors what cookies you’re using, and what you’re doing with the information here on how users can opt out (obviously, not visiting your website is one way, but probably not the way you want to encourage!). Google offers a browser add-on that lets people opt-out of Analytics; it’s available for Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera, and you can get it here:

While that’s a good starting point, though, the EU legislation specifically says that users must give explicit consent to the use of cookies, not merely not have opted out. ‘There are consent mechanisms available that people can incorporate into their websites,’ Rice says. ‘There are some plug-ins they can use, and as they gain visibility with more and more people doing this, the options will get better.’ The ICO’s guidance document recommends consent should be gained through either pop-ups, splash pages, or other banners or overplays – in other words, websites should use the same methods they currently use to show irritating adverts to get consent for cookies.

Some Javascript plug-ins are starting to pop up (Google ‘eu cookie law plug-ins’ to find some) but most of them aren’t terribly sophisticated. Let’s hope Simon’s right, and they’ll get better. For now – well, it’s a good time to start the rest of the process, figuring out what cookies you’re using, removing any of don’t need to be using, and sorting out your privacy information.

What’s going to happen next?

Description: the cookie law

Failure to comply with the EU legislation can mean a fine of up to $750,000 (although it is noted that that’s ‘in the most serious of cases … if any person has seriously contravened the Regulations, and if the contravention was of a kind likely to cause substantial damage or substantial distress’, so you’re not going to get a find like that in the post for using Google Analytics). So this isn’t something that website owners can afford to just ignore. While there may not be a huge number of websites currently asking your permission to use cookies, you can bet that that number is going to increase dramatically over the next few months.

The ICO added a banner asking users to consent to the use of cookies on their site last May, and since then, it’s seen a 90% drop in the number of users recorded via Google Analytics. Which might be a bit worrying, for anyone who relies on analytics for their business (or even just likes knowing where visitors to their blog came from). Hopefully, the increased amount of information on the web will mean that people understand what cookies are, and will mean they feel more comfortable accepting them, but that’s something we’ll have to wait to find out about. In the short term, you’re probably going to be irritated by a lot more popups and banners, but try not to get too annoyed by them.

The real, key message of this legislation – which might be getting lost beneath the irritation about the extra work it’ll take to make websites compliant with it – is that websites should be upfront and open with their users about what information they’re storing about them. It should be down to the user to decide what information they want to share. Which, we reckon, is probably a good thing.

Top 10
Review : Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
Review : Canon EF11-24mm f/4L USM
Review : Creative Sound Blaster Roar 2
Review : Philips Fidelio M2L
Review : Alienware 17 - Dell's Alienware laptops
Review Smartwatch : Wellograph
Review : Xiaomi Redmi 2
Extending LINQ to Objects : Writing a Single Element Operator (part 2) - Building the RandomElement Operator
Extending LINQ to Objects : Writing a Single Element Operator (part 1) - Building Our Own Last Operator
3 Tips for Maintaining Your Cell Phone Battery (part 2) - Discharge Smart, Use Smart
- First look: Apple Watch

- 3 Tips for Maintaining Your Cell Phone Battery (part 1)

- 3 Tips for Maintaining Your Cell Phone Battery (part 2)
- How to create your first Swimlane Diagram or Cross-Functional Flowchart Diagram by using Microsoft Visio 2010 (Part 1)

- How to create your first Swimlane Diagram or Cross-Functional Flowchart Diagram by using Microsoft Visio 2010 (Part 2)

- How to create your first Swimlane Diagram or Cross-Functional Flowchart Diagram by using Microsoft Visio 2010 (Part 3)
Popular Tags
Video Tutorail Microsoft Access Microsoft Excel Microsoft OneNote Microsoft PowerPoint Microsoft Project Microsoft Visio Microsoft Word Active Directory Exchange Server Sharepoint Sql Server Windows Server 2008 Windows Server 2012 Windows 7 Windows 8 Adobe Flash Professional Dreamweaver Adobe Illustrator Adobe Photoshop CorelDRAW X5 CorelDraw 10 windows Phone 7 windows Phone 8 Iphone
Visit movie_stars's profile on Pinterest.