Yummy: How A Robust Cookie Policy

Linkilaw Internet Security

The main purpose of a cookie is to identify a website’s users and personalise web pages through packaging information into a cookie and sending such information to your web browser, which then stores the information for later use. If a user is a regular visitor to the site, the information stored is sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page from the server. This information exchange between the browser and the server creates customised web pages, enhancing the user’s experience.

There are two main types of cookies, session cookies and persistent cookies. Making an informed decision when developing your cookie policy and deciding which cookies to use can benefit both the website host and users of the website.

 

A session cookie

A session cookie is stored in a browser’s temporary memory and is not retained when the browser is closed, it is erased. Session cookies will typically store information for the session, allowing the user to navigate from page to page without having to continuously logging on to their profile, making for a more streamlined user experience.

 

A persistent cookie

Unlike a session cookie, this cookie is retained on your hard drive until it expires on the chosen expiration date, or until you delete the cookie. These cookies are useful to collect identifying information about the user, to adapt a user’s browser to their preferences.

 

Both these cookies can be stored by either a first party or a third party. A first party cookie is set by the website being visited and can only be read by this site, ensuring total privacy for the user. A third party cookie is set by an organisation other than the host of the website. This would occur if the website includes content from other sites, such as Youtube or Instagram, that may wish to set their own cookie policy. A website could also employ a third party advertising network to deliver customised advertising across their website, with the capacity to track a user’s browsing habits.

 

Creating an informed and strategic cookie policy will ensure that your users benefit from all your website has to offer, as well as providing information and statistics for your own use and development. However, in order to create a functional cookie policy, there are certain regulations that must be adhered to in order to safeguard user’s privacy.

 

Consenting to cookies

Regulation 6 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 specifies that a person shall not store or gain access to information stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user unless the requirements unless the following requirements are met:

  • The website must tell users the cookies are there;
  • The website must explain what the cookies are doing and why;
  • The website must get the user’s consent to store a cookie on their device;
  • Consent must be freely given, specific and informed;
  • Must involve positive action (such as ticking a box or clicking a link);
  • Consent cannot be found if information about the cookies is found in a privacy policy that is hard to find, difficult to understand or rarely read.

The regulation does not specify what information must be provided or how to provide such information, but requires that it must be “clear and comprehensive” information regarding the purpose of the cookie policy. Users must also be able to understand the possible consequences of allowing cookies, set out in language appropriate for the website’s intended audience.

 

Benefits of cookies

So long as these requirements are met, a website’s users and the site hosts can benefit from the advantages of a robust cookie policy. The extent of information gathered and stored by cookies can be used to personalise web pages for users and also provide analytics for the website host. Websites can use cookies to track the popularity of the site’s pages, even monitoring what parts of the page are most popular. The page a user entered, what website directed them to the site, the links clicked on, the time spent on a page and the point of exit can all be stored as information through the use of cookies, enabling the site to make preferred information more easily accessible for that specific user. Knowing what pages are more popular can help a website improve their site by featuring more of what visitors want and removing unpopular aspects of the website.
To take advantage of cookies, it is important to create a cookie policy best suited to your website’s needs without compromising users’ security or legal rights. LinkiLaw can provide you with guidance and support to create a beneficial cookie policy in line with the legal regulations.

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