Sage Blog

Welcome to our business blog

How the cookie crumbles – the EU’s new ePrivacy Directive

Posted in: Web design
2 comment

Our guest blogger is Mike Teasdale from digital marketing agency Harvest Digital. Here he talks about the Cookie Law and what you need to know if your business has a website.

In May 2011, the European ePrivacy Directive was passed into UK law. And partly in response to the confusion it caused, UK companies were given a further 12 months to become compliant.

So as of the end of May 2012, the grace period is over but unfortunately the confusion has remained. So what does the law say – and what do you need to do about it?

What is the cookie law?

The law is sometimes called the ‘cookie law’, although it actually doesn’t mention cookies. It is interested in strengthening customer protection around information that is being stored on their computers.  Cookies – which are simple text files stored on your hard drive by your web browser – are the most popular way to store information, but not in fact the only way.

The law sets out some simple principles. Web site owners need to explain what cookies they are using, why they are using them and to gain consent from their users for those cookies.


Image by Neil Conway

The confusion comes because in the UK the government has steadfastly avoided defining exactly what constitutes consent. Consent could mean prior consent – the kind of ‘opt-in’ environment that we have in data protection. But many companies including the BBC and Google have settled on ‘implied consent’ as a practical route – so if you offer someone the chance to say no to cookies, but they ignore you, then you can take that as an ‘implied’ yes.

This grey area is entirely deliberate – it represents light-touch government where it is up to companies to decide to what extent they need to communicate with their own customers.

All well and good, but get this wrong – or ignore the law completely – and you could be hit with a maximum fine of £500,000.

In reality, there is little prospect of big fines being levied just yet. Where complaints are received, the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) is likely to investigate and then write stern letters before getting out a big stick. In consultation, it is clear that the ICO is not necessarily looking for full complaince but rather for evidence that a company is ‘on a journey’ towards compliance.

Our advice to clients is to at all costs avoid explicit prior consent. The example of the ICO’s website suggests that 90% of consumers will not opt in, which then plays havoc with services  like web analytics and shopping carts which rely on cookies.

Two steps towards compliance

There are two fairly simple steps which will show evidence that you are progressing towards compliance.

  1. Do a full audit of the cookies you are currently using – your IT department or web design agency should be able to help with this.
  2. Beef up the information you are giving to consumers via your privacy page (already by the way a legal requirement). This should include a lot more detail on what cookies you are setting, why you are using them and then links to third parties like Google Analytics that can be used to block cookies in the future.  It’s also helpful to flag that this enhanced information exists – the ICO suggests putting links to cookie and privacy policy in a different colour from other links and perhaps in bold.

One thing you definitely shouldn’t do is sit back and wait for clarity to emerge from the confusion. You’ll be waiting a long time – and risking a nasty fine from the regulator.

Mike Teasdale,  Harvest Digital

Posted in: Web design
2 comment


We may use the information you provide to get in touch with you about your business needs. If you’d like to find out more about how we use your details please visit our privacy policy here.

  • rochie de mireasa

    Hey there, You’ve done an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and in my opinion recommend to my friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this website.|May I simply just say what a relief to uncover somebody who really knows what they are talking about over the internet. You definitely know how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people ought to look at this and understand this side of the story. I can’t believe you’re not more popular given that you certainly possess the gift.|The other day, while I was at work, my sister stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a thirty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is completely off topic but I had to share it with someone!|Hey there! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. Many thanks|Hello! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this post to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing!|Hey there! Do you know if they make any plugins to protect against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any recommendations?|you are in point of fact a good webmaster. The web site loading pace is amazing. It kind of feels that you are doing any distinctive trick. Also, The contents are masterpiece. you have performed a fantastic process in this topic!|Hi! I understand this is kind of off-topic however I had to ask. Does managing a well-established blog such as yours take a massive amount work? I am completely new to running a blog however I do write in my journal daily. I’d like to start a blog so I can share my experience and feelings online. Please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate it!|Hmm is anyone else experiencing problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any feed-back would be greatly appreciated.|Hi there just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a few of the images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same outcome.|Heya outstanding blog! Does running a blog similar to this take a lot of work? I’ve absolutely no knowledge of coding however I was hoping to start my own blog in the near future. Anyway, if you have any ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share. I understand this is off subject however I just had to ask. Appreciate it!|Heya! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading through your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the great work!|Hey! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog. Is it hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about creating my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? With thanks|Hi! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m undoubtedly enjoying your blog and look forward to new updates.|Hey there, You’ve done an excellent job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends. I’m confident they will be benefited from this web site.|Hello! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good results. If you know of any please share. Appreciate it!|Howdy this is somewhat of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding skills so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be enormously appreciated!|This is my first time visit at here and i am actually impressed to read everthing at alone place.|Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog. A great read. I will definitely be back.|Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is magnificent, let alone the content!|Wow, marvelous blog layout! How lengthy have you ever been running a blog for? you make running a blog glance easy. The whole glance of your web site is great, as smartly as the content

  • cheap jordan shoes for men under $50

    I am really inspired with your writing talents and also
    with the layout in your blog. Is that this a paid subject
    or did you customize it yourself? Either way keep up the
    excellent high quality writing, it’s uncommon to see
    a nice blog like this one these days..