ICO: ‘Wake up to new cookie laws’

Brand owners which operate websites in the UK have been warned to ‘wake up’ to looming new EU legislation, which will force them to get consent to run online cookies which store or give them access to information on consumers’ computers.
Information Commissioner Christopher Graham has highlighted the new law, which will come into force on May 25 2011, is an amendment to the EU’s Privacy & Electronic Communications Directive.
It will require UK businesses and other organisations to obtain consent from visitors to their websites in order to store on and retrieve usage information from users’ computers.
The majority of businesses and organisations in the UK currently use cookies for a wide variety of reasons – from analysing consumer browsing habits to remembering a user’s payment details when buying products online.
Graham said: “While the roll out of this new law will be a challenge, it will have positive benefits as it will give people more choice and control over what information businesses and other organisations can store on and access from consumers’ own computers.
“The Directive will come into force in less than two months’ time and businesses and organisations running websites in the UK must wake up to the fact that this is happening. We are proactively working with the government, businesses and the public sector to find a workable solution. We recognise that the internet as we know it today depends on the widespread use of cookies and there are of course legitimate business reasons for using them. So we are clear that these changes must not have a detrimental impact on consumers nor cause an unnecessary burden on UK businesses. One option being considered is to allow consent to the use of cookies to be given via browser settings.
“Once the new regulations are published there will be a major job of education and guidance to be undertaken. In the meantime, both the business community and public sector organisations need to start thinking clearly about how they will meet the requirements of the new Directive.”
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is leading on implementing the new measures in the UK while the ICO will be responsible for regulation.
Commenting on the Directive, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey, said: “Revisions to the e-Privacy Directive will provide consumers with more choice and control over their Internet experience. But at the same time we need to make sure these changes do not make using the Internet more difficult.
“Businesses need to be working to address the way they use cookies.
We recognise that work will not be complete by the implementation deadline. The government is clear that it will take time for meaningful solutions to be developed, evaluated and rolled out.
“We recognise this could cause uncertainty for businesses and consumers. Therefore we do not expect the ICO to take enforcement action in the short term against businesses and organisations as they work out how to address their use of cookies.”

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