ICO Receives 64 Cookie Complaints In Three Days

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has received 64 separate complaints about potential cookie law violations, since activating a reporting tool on its website on Friday 25 May.

The cookie law itself, which requires consent from users if tracking files are to be installed on their machines, came into force just two days ago.

An ICO spokesperson told TechWeekEurope complaints were not necessarily for different websites. She could not confirm which sites people had complained about.

“We’re currently working through the 64 we’ve received and will be reviewing those on an ongoing basis,” the spokesperson said. “They are 64 separate complaints, not 64 separate websites.”

The ICO has already said it will not be taking a hard line if companies are not compliant with the European Cookie Directive on user privacy. When complaints are made, the data protection watchdog will look into what the business has done to get in line. If the company can show it is working on a solution, the ICO will not punish them.

If the ICO thinks a breach of the law is serious enough, it can fine up to £500,000. But it has never issued a fine anywhere close to that amount on any privacy issue, since it received additional powers in April 2010.

How to comply?

There are various ways businesses can comply, including gaining explicit or implicit consent. The ICO has recommended that those running sites handling sensitive data, such as medical information, may be wise to going with explicit consent.

A number of notable websites have moved to get in line with the laws. The Financial Times offers a pop-up window, featuring links to information about cookies and how to disable them, ending by saying that continuing means the user is happy to have the tracking files on their system.

BT went with a more expensive option, having a side bar follow the user up and down the telecoms giant’s website, asking them if they wanted to disable cookies, whilst the BBC went for the top of the screen.

There remains confusion about what compliance entails, however, especially since the ICO appeared to offer greater backing to the “implied consent” route last week. The watchdog added more weight to that option in some updated guidance, just before the law came into force in the UK on Saturday.

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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.

View Comments

  • They might as well just tell websites to stop using cookies stored on users' pcs. I clear all my cookies every time I exit Firefox, so every restart of Firefox I have to click the permission buttons all over again. It is getting to be a pain.

  • It's a ridiculous system as it punishes those it's trying to protect: anyone who clicks the "do not allow any cookies" option - which itself HAS to be cookie-controlled - will be pestered every time they go back to them website for their cookie preferences.

    Eventually everyone will be worn down into accepting the cookies just to get rid of the annoying popups that now plague their internet experience, when really this is not the option they wish to select.

    If this law is to have any practical, workable use it needs to become part of the actual browser settings or in a browser plugin the websites can communicate with: so you either only have to set it once for every website or once for each website (backup popups for older browsers, if we really must).

  • So how do you opt out of the ICO tracking of your complaint?

    Free cookie for the answear.

  • "The Financial Times offers a pop-up window, featuring links to information about cookies and how to disable them" - After it has already set them on your browser, which there not allowed to do.

  • So as the UK pushes deeper into recession, it forces its companies to have even more unnecessary costs through still more fascist regulations .. yeah, that'll make UK businesses more efficient.

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