Modified UK Website "Cookie" Regulations Impact U.S. Websites

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Pursuant to recent changes in European legislation, the UK implemented amended regulations regarding cookies in May 2011, but delayed compliance until May 26, 2012. Noncompliance can lead to criminal offences and monetary penalties of more than $800,000. For those companies that are making progress toward compliance, the Information Commissioner who enforces these regulations will likely allow for some leeway with regard to the compliance required by May 26, 2012.

What is a Cookie?

A cookie is a text file containing a small amount of information, often including a unique identifier, that is placed on your computer, mobile phone, or other device from a website’s computer and is stored on your device’s hard drive. There are two different types of cookies. (1) Session cookies are held temporarily and disappear when you close your browser. (2) Persistent cookies may be used by your browser on subsequent visits. Cookies are widely used to provide certain features for websites and allow websites to recognize a user’s device. “Cookies” as used in the regulations also include similar technology for storing information, including local stored objects (flash cookies), web beacons and bugs. The regulations apply to both session cookies and persistent cookies.

Why is this Important?

The new regulations differ from the previous regulations by requiring freely given and informed consent be obtained from users before cookies can be provided. In effect, the new regulations require that users opt-in to cookies, rather than allowing users to opt-out.

What You Should Do Now?

Is your website hosted in, targeted to, or often utilized by users in the UK or the European Union? If so, you should be prepared to take steps toward compliance with the new regulations.

  1. Audit Your Website.
  2. Provide Clear and Accessible Information.
  3. Develop an Opt-In System.

For a more in-depth discussion and to learn more about this topic, click here.

For More Information

If you have questions about the new cookie regulations or would like to speak to someone about bringing your website into compliance, please contact: