I have to admit that I have treated this EU cookie law, with the same scepticism as many other EU laws that have been introduced preferring instead to follow the philosophy of – Don’t panic until we need to panic.
For starters, whilst the intentions might be sound, the law as I understand it does not strike me as being particularly practical. Time to sit back, watch, wait and then see what happens methinks! It seems I was not alone.
I am glad to see that in the UK they have acknowledged that website visitors need to take some responsibility too as reported by the Guardian. Implied consent is now considered acceptable although it is still not easy to comprehend what this actually means and where the boundaries are. The onus seemed to be too heavily weighted against website owners.
(More information at the ICO website.
Click here to download the latest version of the guidelines.)
Why I think the law won’t work .
When the law first came out my primary concern was that there was a lot of lengthy blurb about the law and the consequences of non-compliance without a balancing amount of information about how to easily and effectively implement a solution that would satisfy the requirements.
If a law is passed then it has to be easy for people to understand AND to comply otherwise no matter of enforced education is going to make a blind bit of difference. The threat of massive fines is unlikely to have any impact either. There was a dearth of easy to understand solutions. In a world of one-click installations providing people with instant solutions, it just didn’t seem that it was ever going to get off the ground. With statistics citing that over 95% sites are not yet complying suggests that there might be some truth to this thinking.
The concerns of having technical complications and massive bills from web programmers is enough to make any business owner prevaricate. Is it worth the investment? If this ends up being another European Union folly then why waste precious resources?
The potential impact on sales is also significant. We consistently face a the challenge of reducing the number of actions that a visitor has to take to actually buy our products and services. Until the cookie permissions rule becomes the accepted norm, then people are going to be very reluctant to put yet another obstacle in the way of getting sales.
Why I feel the cookie law is needed
Years ago, when I had my first computer hooked up to the internet, I pro-actively sought out the worst of the internet to see how easy it would be for young children in my house to access the less salubrious sites such as those that promote porn or drugs.
The scripts that ended up on my computer were incredibly clever. As soon as I deleted them, bookmarks, icons and links would magically appear in all sorts of places. It was a case of almost dismantling the engine to remove the invidious devices telling the world that I was potentially interested in a whole host of indelicate practices that would shock even the least prudish of us.
I also discovered that these scripts had reconfigured my email settings connecting me to a premium line which could have cost me a vast fortune every time I went online. The assistant who came to my rescue at the ISP company cited an example of a woman getting a telephone bill of over £3000 as a direct result of a similarly deviant practice. This sort of behaviour is absolutely not acceptable and we need laws to prevent criminally minded organisations from getting away with such blatant thievery. However, this sort of behaviour SHOULD NOT be confused with a small business owner wanting to honestly promote their products and services.
How I think that the cookies should work
Over the last couple of years, I have been increasingly frustrated by the blatant spying that companies have been doing to ensure that they extract your cash from your pockets. I have really resented the way in which I have been bombarded with adverts reminding me of my recent curiosity jaunts.
Did I need or want to be reminded about what I thought I was interested in? No!
Did I need or want to be reminded about the things that I already know I am interested in? Err – no! Duh!
It is leaning on the old school mentality of push marketing and does not invite social engagement or offer me choice. In this era, the customer’s view is always going to be right and they have the right to say so too.
To me – it is no different to broadcast marketing telling us what we should like and what we want. It is ridiculous overkill, incredibly intrusive and more likely to turn us off than turn us on. I personally regularly feel my space being invaded and I would like this practice to stop. So ….
Is a “law” the right solution?
I DO NOT want data about my activity to be tracked and used in the way that it is, not because I have any issues with my data being available, it is the way that it is being used that infuriates me. In fact, the more information collected about me the better.
I want to be able to access the information that I require, when I require it. I do not want to be shown advertisements that were relevant half an hour ago as they have no bearing on what I am focused on now.
Investing in creating better ways to collect data and more importantly how it is used would be far more effective and beneficial than laws that are impossible and costly to police and enforce.
Our websites should be designed with the visitors firmly in mind. Building trust and relationships is vital to create a sustainable business. Having a cookie permission reminder may demonstrate professionalism but to me this is far more important than compliance.
Whatever is put in place should be about usability rather than bowing to governmental directives which have no bearing on what real life business relationships are actually about. The laws may actually gain weight and we may find ourselves in the invidious position of having to pay fines and comply although I dread to think what the implications of that might be.
At least, this is my view but what do you think about this cookie law? Is it sense or lunacy?
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The EU cookie law has caused a huge problem and Implied consent is certainly the best solution for site owners. Building a credible web presence requires understanding your visitors in order to do your best for them and cookie based analytics is critical.
Also the fact that the law treats the tracking of share button usage and even writing this comment in a wordpress blog leaves implied consent the only option.
The route we went down has been to make clients aware of the law, offer them a removal of google analytics and/or other offending items or go the compliance route (which took a while to find a good solution), or finally they could do nothing but that the ball resides firmly in their court.
A law is not the right solution when the ICO’s evidence clearly points to a lack of user understanding and as you point out usability is key. The UK law is harsher than the rest of Europe.
best of luck with stupid stupid Cookie law compliance :/
Thank you Andy – great to get your input. It really worries me that tracking the use of share buttons and writing comments can be subjected to these ridiculous laws. The EU seem to have a real problem with understanding how things work before sticking the boot in. They seem bent on destruction rather than support.
Perhaps the real answer lies with people anyway? If the computer operating systems/browsers are better designed and the default settings are set up in such a way to help users, then people will make their own choices. I think that the onus is on all of us personally, professionally and definitely incorporates business websites as well as the software developers. Time will tell of course!