When Written: May 2011
Getting back to web development it would be remiss of me not to mention the new EU laws concerning cookies which came into effect in May 26th 2011. Like most legislation surrounding new technology it seems to be full of anomalies and uncertainties.
I would suspect, that the powers that be are waiting for trial cases to appear and clear up the ‘grey areas’. But that aside the main change that will affect most web sites is that users have to ‘opt in’ to allow cookies to be placed on their browser, rather than the previous ‘opt out’ system. This means that you have to have to make it quite clear to the user before you place any cookies on their machine, that you are going to do so and that you need their permission. Just making a change to those ‘hidden’ terms and conditions on your web site will not do.
So what does ‘strictly necessary’ mean? The tracking of an out basket on a shopping site is an obvious example of such a use of a cookie because the user has requested a shopping basket, but it would not apply if you were using just cookies to personalise the web site. You could justifiably argue that certain session cookies might be allowed if they were for the working of your site but you may need to use url strings or form variables instead for such tracking. One area that the legislation seems quite clear on is if you were using cookies to collect statistical information about the use of your web site.
This could rule out the use of services like Google analytics for web stats unless you specifically ask permission.
The Wolf jQuery add-in is one way of complying with the new EU legislation
Wolf software have produced a jQuery add in that achieves this (http://www.wolf-software.com/Downloads/jpecrga/ ). The full advice document from the government is at http://www.ico.gov.uk/~/media/documents/library/Privacy_and_electronic/Practical_application/advice_on_the_new_cookies_regulations.pdfand it is said that the government is allowing another twelve months before actively pursuing non-compliant web sites. It is now important to go through your web sites and see if they comply with this new legislation, before we see a flurry of start-ups trying to make money by checking your web sites and offering consultancy help.
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton