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From May 26th 2012 every website must ask all new visitors for permission to store ‘non-essential’ cookies on the users device. Cookies are used to store user information about past actions on a site. It creates a history of your time spent on the site and creates a trail (like cookie crumbs) that the website can follow.

In the normal run of things cookies are not a problem, the trail allows a seamless user experience every time they visit the site. But with more and more web pages using cookies for malicious purposes as well as fears over internet security the EU has effectively banned cookies unless they are expressly accepted by the visitor.

What does this mean for my website?

Even if you think you don’t use cookies on your site – you probably do. Some of the key features that use cookies are social media buttons (Facebook ‘like, Twitter ‘follow’ etc.), login forms and Google Analytics, all of which will be unusable after the 26th May if you do not receive consent for them.

What can I do?

There are many companies which have developed programs, add-ons and plugins that pop up and ask for permission to use cookies. These will likely be a slight annoyance for your visitors but should at least allow full functionality on your site.

There is also some free html coding available online which provides you with a copy and paste ‘consent’ panel which appears at the top of all your pages. If you have a CMS then you can just paste this code into your site template, otherwise you will have to manually insert into every page.

Some code developments, such as this one by OpenGlobal have added a countdown timer which will then automatically accept the cookies after the time has reached zero. This should hopefully mean that most of the site functionality will be maintained for the majority of users rather than have them simply not bother clicking ‘accept’.

What if we’re not ready?

If you’re not quite ready for the 26th May deadline then don’t worry too much. The Information Commissioner’s Office, who regulates the law in the UK, have stated in their blog that they are not expecting ‘perfect compliance’ but are looking to make sure people are at least working toward a solution for their site.

However, this does not mean we can baulk at the new law altogether. If found guilty of flagrantly ignoring this EU directive you are liable for a fine of up to £500,000.

To get more in-depth advice or if you would like us to protect your website from the cookie monster then please get in touch today. And don’t forget, you can get more industry news, views and insights by joining our community on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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