Tag Archives: The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. cookie law

EU Cookie Law

CameraYou shouldn’t have failed to notice, that when you visit this site now you get a message regarding cookies and your privacy. This is to comply with the The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, that were amended in 2011 to change the requirement for individuals browsing websites. The amendment now requires individuals to give their consent for certain web tracking technologies to be used. The most common being cookies.

What are cookies?

Cookies are tiny files made up of numbers and text that are placed on an individual’s computer when surfing web sites. They are not used to put spyware, trojans or other nasties on your computer.  Other technologies are also used such as tiny transparent image files known as web beacons or bugs, Flash Cookies and HTML5 all store information on your computer. Over 90% of websites use cookies .

They are used to remember which individual is visiting the site by reading the cookie file stored on an individual’s computer. In nearly all cases the information stored in cookie is just a code that cannot be used to identify the individual visiting the site.

Are all cookies equal?

The simple answer is no. Some cookies are exempt from the law such as those used to remember to keep you logged in to a site or remember the items in your shopping basket. Others such as Google Analytics are used by webmasters to see how the site is visited, which pages are popular and unpopular, which sites they came from and which page they left from. This enables the site to be tweaked so that it caters for user’s needs. Finally there are the Performance Cookies. These are generally used to serve adverts such as GoogleAds but ever increasingly Social Media buttons, such as Facebook ‘Like’ buttons, Google ‘+1’ buttons and all of those ‘Share’ buttons.  These gather the most information and for the longest timescale. Without them them Facebook and other social media sites would have to change their business models.
In the process of assessing the cookies set by WordPress and its plugins, I learnt that there are some quite intrusive cookies set. I will be looking to eliminate these is possible. WordPress makes web publishing easy but the downside is that we have less control over the coding.

What should you do?

The best thing would be to read up more on the subject. You can’t know enough about internet security and privacy. Look at some of the social media provider’s Privacy and cookie policies. See if you are happy with what they are doing. Some sites have implemented a scheme that allows individuals to set the level of security that suits them on their site. So you can block cookies for advertising but this also means that the social media share buttons are disabled as well.

Take a look at Add Ons such as NoScript for Firefox which is very effective at blocking malicious code and if you trust a site then you can temporarily or permanently allow it to get full functionality.

What do you think?

You must have come across other sites taking action as a result of this European Directive, which ones impressed you? How much did you know about cookies before and how much has your understanding improved as a result of the implementation of the directive? What further information are you personally looking for?




About John Williams

John Williams looks at travel from a responsible consumer's perspective. He is doesn't accept hosted trips, so don't expect gushing reports of experiences that neither he, you, nor our planet can afford. He, is the first to acknowledge that when it comes to sustainable travel, he has a lot to learn. TravelCrunch is a platform for sharing his learning, but if you have any tips or disagreements feel free to air them in the comments.