Why Are Websites Suddenly Asking Me To Save Cookies?

Cookies, not the chocolate chip kind, have long been a familiar term to anyone who uses the internet. It’s our general understanding that websites store cookies on our computer. Occasionally, someone will write about ‘privacy’ and ‘tracking’ concerns regarding these cookies upsetting people. The more naive ones, and even some of the sensible ones, will think they’ve accidentally installed a massive spying program on their computer and their every click is now being tracked. That’s not what cookies do. Storing cookies allows websites to remember preferences and retain browsing sessions. For example, if you start shopping on Amazon without logging into your account, and close the tab either accidentally or on purpose, when you next visit the site, the items you previously added to the shopping cart will still be there. Why? Because cookies. If you’re alright with websites saving cookies, then you might simply be wondering why there is a sudden need for your explicit agreement to saving them. The answer to that is a new law passed under the  EU e-Privacy Directive.

The law states;

a person shall not store or gain access to information stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user unless the requirements of paragraph (2) are met.

(2) The requirements are that the subscriber or user of that terminal equipment-

(a) is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of
the storage of, or access to, that information; and

(b) has given his or her consent.
Regulation 6 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR)

Here’s what the cookie consent pop-up might look like, and how it reads.

The law basically means that when people visit a website that stores cookies in their browser, they must know that it is saving them. They must also know what the point of saving these cookies is, and they have to agree to it.

There are exceptions to the law. When saving a cookie is absolutely necessary, i.e. without saving it you cannot use the website or service in question, the website doesn’t need to ask for your consent to save a cookie. It is assumed that you grant it by using the website or its service. For example; cookies needed to remember the things you’ve added to your shopping cart will be exempt as they are necessary to allow you to purchase an item.

The good news is that first and third party ad tracking cookies are not exempt from the law and will require consent from the user to save to your browser.

You can read the comprehensive directive issued by International Commissioner’s Office via the link at the end.The document gives a brief history of the law, defines terms and parties, and assists website owners and users alike regarding compliance.

Read Guidance on the rules on use of cookies and similar technologies 

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About Lily Herman

Lily Herman
Lily Herman is a New York-based writer and editor. In recent months, her work has been featured in Teen Vogue, Glamour, Refinery29, Cosmopolitan, TIME, Newsweek, Fast Company, and Mashable. You can check out her website, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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