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27.05.12

Thousands of websites unprepared for new EU cookie law

Privacy regulations that cover the use of cookies and similar technology for storing and accessing information on a users computer or mobile came into force on 26 May 2011.   Cookies are small files placed on a user's computer when he/she visits a particular website.  Typically they record user choices which are then referenced when the user returns to the website.  Cookies often benefit users; they speed up the browsing process by "remembering" preferred settings.  However, cookies and similar devices can also be used to gather advertising information or for more nefarious purposes such as covert surveillance (e.g. spyware tracing the activity of the user).

The regulations now require that the user is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the purposes of the storage of, or access to, that information and gives his/her consent.  In certain circumstances such consent can be implied (e.g. where the information is set out clearly and the user has continued to use the website).

The Information Commissioner's Office will police the new regulations.  It has the power to impose fine or take enforcement action in respect of breaches.


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