Before May 26th, you will probably have read or heard about the EU Privacy and E-Commerce Regulations (PECR) or the EU Cookie Law and the impact it could have on the UK’s Internet Industry. 4Ps Marketing have covered the legislation in some detail on their own blog, by guest blogging on eConsultancy and giving a presentation and panel session at the Association of Online Publishers.

For me, the more I thought about the legislation, the more I began to agree with the ICO. Users should be aware that sites can track their behaviour, but is this any different to TFL being able to track a customer as they move across London’s Underground network? In my view, the legislation was about awareness, making people know that their behaviour could be monitored. The £500,000 fine, which the ICO can impose on non-conforming sites, is a means for the ICO to have some teeth if needed, but they have always been clear that this would be a last resort. Again, in my view, this was something that many journalists used to scare both businesses and users. Some also believe that the ICO did an “11th hour u-turn” with implied consent but again this was covered in the AOP session as an option.

So how have UK businesses adapted to the change? What will happen from here? Was it all a storm in a teacup?

It is quite interesting to see how the major eCommerce sites like Tesco, Asda, M&S and John Lewis have tackled the legislation – in my view, some have failed the first test and that is to provide clarity to the user on how they are being tracked and why. The examples below show how some of the UK’s top brands have interpreted and responded to the legislation:

Why do I believe some of these to be non-compliant? Well, they all are choosing to use an “implied” consent mechanism. That is by using the sites I give my consent to the use of cookies. This would be fine were it not for the fact that there is nothing telling me that’s what they are doing. They have all moved and renamed the Privacy Policy, but none have actually made me aware that this is where I need to look, and indeed it blends in with other items. The exception is M&S, who have made it obvious there is a NEW COOKIE POLICY.

Other sites have been clearer in their implied consent; the BBC, Jamie Oliver and, indeed, 4Ps Marketing’s site all show the user they are using cookies.

 

 

Sadly though, the UK Government’s flagship website, Directgov has made no effort to make its site compliant, other than putting a link saying “Cookies” at the top of the site, somewhat misleading to visitors.

So what will happen next? I believe Cookie messages will continue to appear on websites for the foreseeable future but over time will either become integrated into the Web Browser as agreement is reached on a common mechanism for gaining consent or sites may even standardise their implementation.  I believe a lot of unnecessary hype was made around the legislation, but it will be interesting to see how the ICO reacts to any complaints it receives.

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