Web Firm Provokes ICO Over ‘Ridiculous’ Cookie Law

A web software firm has taunted the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) over the “ridiculous” cookie law, which requires website owners to gain consent from users if cookies are installed on their machines.

Silktide, which offers a solution for website owners to notify users of cookies, set up nocookielaw.com this month, asking the ICO to sue the company for removing all cookie notifications from the site. “Presumably we now fly in the face of the law you are sworn to uphold,” a message on the website read.

“Please, please do your worst. Send in a team of balaclava-clad ninjas in Black Hawk helicopters to tickle us to death with feather dusters. Just do something.

“The idea of this law is a noble one, it’s just a shame it was drafted by a team of technically illiterate octogenarians who couldn’t find a button on a mouse.”

The cookie law forms part of an EU directive, which came into force in the UK this May.

Cookie craziness

Many believe the cookie law does little to help consumers claw back privacy where they want it and simply adds additional burdens on companies. Instead of the cookie law, Silktide simply wants there to be a “standard way in which people can find a privacy policy.”

Oliver Emberton, Silktide’s chief, told TechWeekEurope companies were not paying attention to the cookie law as it was far too restrictive and demanding of businesses.

“If you take the law literally, you aren’t meant to set any ‘non essential’ cookies without asking permission first. So, for example, BBC News couldn’t use analytics to measure visitors, or social widgets to allow visitors to share pages, or discussion systems to allow them to chat on the site; not without having the user explicitly agree first, say by ticking a box,” Emberton said.

“Now basically no-one has done this, because, firstly, it’s technically nearly impossible, and secondly, they would kill their site.

“The ICO themselves still set cookies they haven’t been able to ‘practically’ eliminate. The technology simply isn’t there, and big sites often use tens or hundreds of cookies that are beyond their control.” He claimed the cost of complying with the cookie law could reach £10,000 for a large site.

“In some cases the only solution is to change or upgrade technology, which comes at an even greater cost. And for many commercial systems, there’s no solution.”

Emberton said the ICO had not been in touch and he expects the privacy watchdog will do nothing. The ICO responded to Silktide’s brazen campaign, saying it was worth noting that the ICO does not write laws, but simply enforces them.

“We’ve spoken with the people behind some of the UK’s most visited websites, and continue to educate businesses on how to comply with the law,” a spokesperson said. “Individuals can raise their concerns about how organisations have implemented the cookies legislation through our website, and we’ll look at the content of every website reported to us. The nocookielaw website will feature in that review, and we’ll report on our findings in November.”

Research released today by privacy services firm TRUSTe showed just 12 percent of 231 top UK websites it looked at had implemented prominent privacy notices with robust cookie controls.

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Thomas Brewster

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

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