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There’s a lot of misconception when it comes to what web cookies are and where they’re used.

This BBC resource called Web Wise provides a brief explanation:

“When you visit a site that uses cookies for the first time, a cookie is downloaded onto your PC. The next time you visit that site, your PC checks to see if it has a cookie that is relevant (that is, one containing the site name) and sends the information contained in that cookie back to the site.

“The site then ’knows’ that you have been there before, and in some cases, tailors what pops up on screen to take account of that fact. For instance, it can be helpful to vary content according to whether this is your first ever visit to a site – or your 71st.”

Up until May of this year, sites were able to use cookies on their websites and many did because it meant they remembered your surfing history, buying habits and log-in details, making it particularly useful for e-commerce sites.

However, it’s now officially illegal for any kind of business to use cookies on its website without getting permission from the visitors first.

There’s no need to worry just yet, websites have until May 2012 to make sure they comply with the new rules and here’s how.


How do I know if my site has web cookies?

Firstly you need to find out whether you have cookies on your site and what purpose they serve. It’s probably best to get your web team to carry out an audit and help you with this so nothing falls under the radar.

Some cookies will still be allowed, for instance those that remember what you wanted to buy five minutes ago, but those that store personal data for long periods of time need to be addresses.

If you have web cookies that fall into the latter category on your site at the moment, you need to remove them OR devise a way to make sure you have the consent of your visitors to lot at their web cookie information.

Options if you want to keep your web cookies

So, you could introduce a pop-up to your website to give them information about the data you’re collecting and whether they want to proceed. Although it’s worth bearing in mind that some visitors may find this quite off putting.

You could also make people sign up to your website and then direct them to a terms and conditions page giving details about web cookies.

There are also other options, like a moving status bar at the side of your website giving visitors details about the web cookies being used and what data they’re collecting.

Here at Codastar we can carry out an audit of your website to find if there are any issues with cookies. We can then help you to remove them or look at other options. Getting rid of them is usually a quick job, so get in touch today so you know that your website is legal and compliant.

[Image via matrixizationizeds_world’s Flickr]

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