4 May, 2012

A partner's quick guide to Cookie Law

On 26th May 2012 all UK websites must offer their users a consent mechanism to allow cookies to store information about your browsing activity and potentially pass this to 3rd parties. This includes tools such as Google Maps, Google Analytics, social sharing buttons and many more! How does this law affect your online dating sites on the WhiteLabelDating.com platform?

What are cookies?
They are text files that are placed on user computers to remember choices as you navigate round the site, to remember user preferences, to track site performance and to target advertising.

What is the relevant law?
‘The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive)(Amendment) Regulations 2011’ has been commonly referred to for at least the last 12 months as the ‘Cookie Law’.

What does it do?
In summary, it means that all website operators are now required to ask a website user’s permission when placing certain types of cookies on their devices. They must also explain what they are and why they are placed there.

When did it become law?
It became law on 26 May 2011 and assumed that browser technology could be used to manage cookie permissions. This was not the case, so the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) declared a moratorium on enforcing the law until 26 May 2012 by when browser developments would have caught up. Again, this has not proved to be the case, which has left all website operators with the task of implementing measures to comply. With no practical guidance being issued by the ICO on how to do this, we are taking our lead from the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce).

What have we done already?
We already comply with part of the law in that the Privacy Policy on the sites explains the different types of cookies we use and how we use them. There are four categories of cookies summarised as; strictly necessary, performance, functionality and targeting. We currently place cookies on our sites for the first three but may be using the last category soon. Users have to give permissions to allow categories two to four.

What else do we need to do?
The ICC have interpreted the law to mean that we can gather consent for category one to three cookies by agreement to terms and conditions or privacy policy. Category four, which is what the law was specifically targeted for, requires explicit consent but we currently don’t place these types of cookies on users’ computers.

So are we covered?
Not yet, we need to make a minor change our Privacy Policy to make it clear that agreeing to our terms and conditions also means you give consent for the allowed category cookies to be used. However, this will happen and be in place before the moratorium is lifted on the 26th May 2012.

Will this situation change?
Cookie management in browser technology is not currently being developed by the major players, so help is not forthcoming there. We may change the operation of our sites so that we do need to drop targeting cookies, at which point we will have to introduce the collection of explicit consent.

What do our partners need to do?
Nothing, that’s what WhiteLabelDating.com provides. If you have any questions, do get in touch with your Partner Manager who will do their best to assist.

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