New Cookie Regs: Who’s Doing What?

Sarah McInerney

Head of Content

Sarah has almost three decades of experience in crafting compelling, engaging content specifically designed to boost sales and enhance brand loyalty. She’s also an expert in developing unique tone of voice that helps brands connect with their audiences. Her marketing and client service background has given Sarah a natural understanding of how to write content that makes readers take action. Whether it’s signing up to a mailing list, making an enquiry or donation or clicking the buy button, Sarah knows precisely how to convert with words. Pen down, Sarah is a proud member of the Essex Wildlife Trust and spends most of her free time enjoying inspiring walks through her local woodland and nature reserves, admiring everything that flaps, flutters and flowers.

The EU cookie regulations relating to privacy legislation were introduced in May 2011 and the UK was given one year to comply with the EU directive.  Two months on from this deadline, we take a look at how some top websites are interpreting these regulations and some of the main considerations for sites to be compliant.

As a re-cap, the cookie regulations require websites to expressly gain consent from visitors to use cookies other than those strictly necessary to operate the website – for example those that power online shopping baskets and maintain security – these don’t need permission. But any others, including those used to remember preferences and deliver Analytics information are subject to the regulations.

For these types of cookies, it is no longer sufficient to let visitors know they can opt out if they want to by including a statement in a privacy policy hidden away in the depths of your website footer – the policy now has to be upfront and the visitor needs to opt in. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is responsible for ensuring that organisations comply with the cookie regulations.  If a business is not compliant, or not visibly seen to be working towards compliance, it will run the risk of a fine of up to half a million pounds.

So how are the big brands dealing with it?

Dialogue Boxes for the BBC

The BBC has chosen to use dialogue boxes to gain visitors’ consent.  They can appear on the homepage or any page where a user has not opted in to accept cookies.  This is a clear, up-front way of spelling out the website’s cookie policy.  However, it is worth noting that the user will not be able to browse the website until they have dealt with the dialogue box, so they could go elsewhere. OK for the BBC perhaps, but maybe not the smaller organisation keen to keep their visitors.

Status Bars for Debenhams

Debenhams are using a translucent status bar which appears at the bottom of their website. The bar allows visitors to browse, but will remain visible until the user opts in or out. Whilst this option is less intrusive, there is potentially more chance that customers will just ignore the bar and not opt into the cookie policy meaning the retailer will get to collect less information – and so its targeting may suffer.

eBay Opts for Warning Bars

eBay has chosen to use warning bars, which appear whenever a page tries to set a cookie.  Users can then choose to opt in or out and be given further information.  Again, these are less intrusive than dialogue boxes, but still run the risk of not gaining enough information for the retailer if people choose to ignore the opt-in.

… and it’s Comedy for Channel 4!

There are a few more innovative methods of gaining cookie consent visible throughout the web and it’s quite interesting to see how certain organisations are dealing with the issue. Probably the cleverest we’ve seen is Channel 4’s ‘Viewer Promise’ delivered courtesy of a video starring comedian Alan Carr. Take a look and see what you think:

How have you gone about dealing with the regulations? What’s your favourite cookie compliant website?

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