A cookie refers to the information that a web server sends to a web browser when you visit a website.
This information is stored in your device’s hard drive where a web server accesses it.
Cookie store information such as what you did on the web page and even your name and interest or any personal details you have volunteered.
Uses of Cookies
For instance, when you are provided with options on a website and choose your preferences, the website stores such data in a cookie.
On your next visit to the website, the servers will rely on that data to create a personalized page for you.
Online retailers also rely on cookies to store any information you share or any activity you do such as any items in your electronic cart.
This eliminates the need for the shoppers to keep re-entering this information on their next visit.
Cookies enable the websites to track activities on the pages. After visiting a website for the first time, your browser will store cookies that will help the website to identify you on your next visit.
The cookies enable the websites to know the pages with most visits and those with most repeats among other metrics.
Cookies allow your PPC campaigns track and show ads to users based on content they’ve visited on your website.
Controversies around Cookies
When you accept cookies, it does not mean you have given the servers access to your device.
They only have access to the information that you have given. Furthermore, cookies are not executable files hence they cannot be used to deliver harmful products like a virus.
Cookies make it easy for webmasters to track the activities of their visitors.
Surprisingly, apart from the websites you visit, cookies may also come from advertising companies.
In such cases, your information may be used to create effective advertising campaigns without your consent. Here’s an example of Fiverr.com using a Facebook Pixel to put me into their advertising campaign.
When I’ve visited Facebook the Cookie / Pixel they’re using to track me is showing me content I have looked at on their website.
Not all visitors to your website would like their browsing behaviour tracked. The need to protect such consumers has led to the development of privacy laws.
Although not all jurisdictions are very strict, there are others that require the websites to get informed consent from their visitors in advance.
About Cookies Policy
Cookie law can be explained as a piece of privacy law that restricts the websites from retrieving or storing any information from their visitors.
They are also supposed to know the types of cookies being used.
Webmasters are supposed to give the visitors a choice to accept or reject access to their information.
No other region has a law requiring webmasters to post a Cookies Policy apart from the EU.
Previously, cookies were not a major issue for websites and their visitors until a few years ago.
In May 2011, the EU issued a directive that gave website visitors the right to choose whether to accept cookies.
Individual EU member countries amended their laws to comply.
Besides, they must observe EU Cookies Law in their cookies usage. EU can be regarded to have the strictest Cookies Policies.
Under the EU Cookies Law, you should inform your end users and visitors about your cookies usage.
Furthermore, you must give reasons why you using them.
Before placing your cookies on your visitors’ computers, you must obtain their consent.
Requirements of EU Cookie Directive
The EU Cookie Directive contains some requirements that must be met by any business that is based on the region or targets EU customers.
Most online companies have been forced to comply with this directive to reach the lucrative EU market.
According to the EU Cookie Directive;
Any website has the responsibility of informing their users about their cookie usage.
The website must make the opt-out option available to users.
In the United States
The United States, like most of the other countries, does not require webmasters to insert a separate Cookies Policy like with the EU.
Unless a business is targeting EU citizens, there is no need to comply with the EU Cookie Directive.
Most websites only place a Cookies clause in their Private Policy page with the aim of letting the visitors know they are using cookies. Some businesses choose to include such information on their Information We Collect page.
The websites are free on how they wish to display their Cookie information.
Using Google Analytics in the EU Region
Tracking website’s metric is important to businesses.
The availability of such data makes it easy for businesses to monitor Key Performance Indicators, ensure goals are achieved and follow the performance of the company.
Many traders rely on Google Analytics (GA) to track these important metrics.
Nevertheless, the use of GA in Europe must comply with the EU Cookie Directive.
This is because the tracking system relies cookies to collect data on the activities of every user on a website.
GA mainly uses four different cookies, which have different purposes. Nevertheless, you don’t have to explain the detail of each cookie to your consumers.
When you have a good understanding of the various cookies used, you will know the kind of information you are collecting from your visitors and the need to comply with the EU Cookie Directive.
Cookies Policy Link
When your business is based in the EU or when targeting EU citizens, you must include a Cookies notice.
Besides, you should have a link that redirects to your Cookies Policy on your website’s footer.
This means that even if you have a footer link but lack Cookies notice, you have not complied because there is no way of getting active consent from your visitors.
How to Ensure Adherence to the EU Cookie Directive
Now that you have familiarized yourself with EU Cookie Directive, it is important to know how to comply with it.
Given the many requirements in this directive, it is not hard to get lost hence the need to simplify the process.
Here is a Cookie Compliance checklist:
1. Cookies Policy:
It is important to ensure you have a Cookies Policy as required under the EU directive.
It is on this page that you will explain everything about your cookies as explained above. This may include defining what cookie is in simple terms.
The essence of Cookies Policy is to ensure that consumers have a good understanding of what cookies are.
Furthermore, it enables the visitors to determine which cookies they feel may compromise their privacy and skip them.
Such banners or pop-up notifications should contain important information about the cookies such as their uses.
Apart from using a simple language, the banners should be placed in an obvious location.
Getting an informed consent from your website visitors is important under the EU Cookies Directive.
You can achieve this by using a checkbox or simple clickable button.
This method is called affirmative action. Another way you can get the consent from your customers is by telling them that further browsing means they have accepted the cookies.
4. Opt-out Option
Although cookies are not a major concern for users, there are those who feel uncomfortable with them.
Under the EU Cookie Directive, the webmasters must provide the users with an opt-out option.
Cookies notice is vital to businesses targeting EU citizens hence the need to be sensitive to its design and wording.
It is also important to ensure you have complied with every requirement in the EU Cookies Directive.
Apart from using simple language in your cookies notice, you should place in such a way that first-time visitors see it quickly.
Although some businesses find it challenging to comply with the EU Cookies Directive, it is a simple task especially if you have gone through the above compliance checklist.
You shouldn’t be in a hurry to launch a website if you are unsure you have complied with every requirement as you may lose customer trust in the region.