There are quite a few scary, sensationalist stories going around about website cookies being banned; as with many things there is a grain of truth in this, but there is a lot of baloney as well. Let’s take a look …
Note: this is my interpretation of the current state of play, please shout out if you have other opinions. I’ll be updating this post as things pan out.
Update: I hate to say I told you so, but…it looks like it’s panic over for the moment.
First off, let’s get something clear: cookies themselves are pretty much harmless scraps of text that your web browser stores on your computer to make your web-browsing experience better. How better? Well, when you go to, say, HOTMAIL and login, isn’t it cool that HOTMAIL remembers that you are logged in? Rather than asking you to login every time you click on a new page, etc. 99% of the time cookies are used in this way: helping to maintain session for website visitors. Exactly the same principle applies when you add something to your shopping basket on Amazon; cookies help maintain the session so your basket isn’t wiped out between pages.
Well, it appears that these cookies are fine in that they are essential (*) to the operation of the website. So that’s a good start.
(* see 5th paragraph of this link - but what is essential is open to debate as well)
So what are the ‘bad’ cookies then?
Well, anything that can be argued to be non-essential to the operation of the website or geared particularly towards gathering personal data is a concern. And Google Analytics is the obvious example here (even though, in fairness, I’m sure that Google Analytics wasn’t what the original spirit of the law was intended to deal with; it’s just been caught up in the mess).
Note: Google Analytics is the industry-standard web-statistics tool many websites use to help see how their visitors are interacting with the website; pretty harmless. It doesn’t divulge credit card numbers or personal phone numbers; it’s not a tabloid journalist.
So, there are a lot of people concerned that they’ll need to put up a horrible “Can we store a Google Analytics cookie?” like dialog box on their websites. Can you imagine the pain of doing that? And how nasty it would be to the user experience? Yeuch!
Even the UK government seem to be in two minds whether Google Analytics is covered here or not . (That’s a great article and actually well worth a read).
Should you be worried?
Your website could be a pretty standard one, which doesn’t do anything special, then perhaps you use Google Analytics, if so, in the words of the late, great Douglas Adams, “don’t panic!”. This situation is not yet fully played out. You’re not getting sued for a billion pounds (not yet, anyway).
My opinion is that this will end up being a storm in a tea cup with most people needing to do nothing. My other gut feeling is that if Google Analytics MUST be opt-in in EU/UK then Google may well modify their tracking code to handle this (i.e. minimising website changes for affected users).
Wait and see seems to be the order of the day. It’s certainly what I’ll advise Jojet clients until I’m convinced otherwise.
p.s. I really hope this doesn’t open the door to more
shiesters opportunists ringing up businesses with scare tactics like “YOUR WEBSITE IS ILLEGAL! WE CAN FIX IT”. I hope such people vanish in a freak yachting accident.
p.p.s oh! Nearly forgot The Smiths