Adding a cookie policy to your site – Part 1: Why?

    Posted on July 26, 2019


    In the post-GDPR online world, you might well have seen so many pop-ups about cookie policies by now, you’ve started agreeing to them by instinct. It’s easy to see them as irritating, but from a webmaster’s perspective, they’re essential to making sure your site is compliant with data protection.

    Your site’s visitors need to understand what data you are keeping on them, but how can you inform of this? For a start, do you even know the answer to the question yourself, or would you crumble like a cookie if asked?

    Over the next two blogs, we’re going to look into why and how you add a cookie policy to your site. This first part will deal more with ‘why’.

    What is a cookie?

    Let’s start by explaining the term. A cookie is a piece of information stored on your computer when you visit a website. For example, imagine you were to go to a retail website, add something to your shopping basket, but then leave the site without completing the transaction. If you visited the site again a couple of days later, then as long as you were using the same computer or device, the item would probably still be in the basket. That’s because a cookie has been stored to record that detail.

    In essence, cookies are designed to make the user’s browsing experience more intuitive and straightforward, and to prevent the same information being repeated by the user on every visit. However, thanks to certain high-profile privacy controversies, many users have become sceptical of what websites are doing with the information cookies are collecting, and the role of third-party cookies. As such, websites now need to get “informed consent” from the user on any non-essential cookies being stored.

    How does a cookie policy help?

    The way websites get this consent is through the now very common pop-ups, usually directing users to the site’s cookie policy.

    Of course, most people aren’t interested. One report has found that as many of 91% of Americans accept terms and conditions without reading them and no doubt their cookie consent attitudes are the same, but as long as a site is clearly informing people of the cookies it’s using and giving them the option to opt out, it’s doing its job.

    Remember too that GDPR gives users the right to ask a company what information is being held on them and why. A cookie policy helps explain this, and also allows you as the webmaster to keep track of what data you hold.

    The next step

    On Monday, we’ll look into how to find out which cookies are on your website, and how to put together a policy that clearly explains them to your site’s visitors.

    John Murray
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