Socitm Warns Authorities On EU Cookie Law

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Socitm and Cookie Reports are joining forces to offer local government help to comply with the EU cookie law

Socitm reckons that many local government and public services websites will be hard-pressed to comply with the European Union’s cookie law, and has decided to lend a hand.

An audit of 603 public sector websites showed that all but six of them had at least one cookie, with one site carrying a staggering 1,346. Under the new law which came in to force on 26 May, all websites accessible from EU countries must ask permission to plant cookies in visitors’ web browsers.

Fighting The Cookie Monster

Socitm looked at all local authority sites and 170 public services sites such as fire, police, housing and public transport executives (PTEs). On average each site has 32 cookies, many of which are set by third parties such as Twitter and Google.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO), which has already placed a consent banner on its site, is responsible for enforcing the law in the UK. It has given website owners a year to put permissions mechanisms in place but, as yet, there is no guidance.

“We have compared the number of cookies found by our audit with those declared by some of the organisations that have already taken action on cookies,” said Martin Greenwood, programme director for Socitm Insight. “It is difficult to check for cookies and in every case we have found significantly more cookies than the site owners are aware of.”

To help the public sector, Socitm Insight has partnered with Cookie Reports to launch a simple service that will help to implement compliance. The Cookie Management Service has been set up as a shared service which will be offered to the services’ websites. Initially, the service will be funded by Socitm and three basic services will be provided.

Accompanying a full report detailing all cookies on the website and the pages on which they appear, a “How To” guide will be provided for subscribers to describe various options for informing site visitors about cookies to ensure compliance with the law. A monitoring service will be integrated with pages to discover new cookies and inform visitors how permissions will affect their continued use of the site.

The cookie law is proving to be controversial because the concept of using the text-based tracking objects is meant to enhance a user’s browsing experience by recording where they go and keeping track of items ordered. The problem is that cookies have been misused and used to track visitors from site to site and the law hands control to the user – but not without disrupting their experience as they scan through the cookies to see which to accept and which to reject.

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