Do you have a website? Save your cookies? You MUST take action!

How many times have you seen the word ‘cookie’ in relation to computers, websites and the internet and just don’t have a clue what it means – in fact, don’t even care?

It’s just one of those terms which us technophobes skim over and ignore, accepting that it’s something technical and we don’t need to think about.

COOKIES! COOKIES! COOKIES! From January 1 2012, if you’ve got a website, for business or personal use, and it uses cookies for gathering data – YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS.

Cookies are not only lovely biscuits which are often horribly addictive – they are also pieces of code which attach themselves to your computer when you click on certain websites. I think that’s a good way to describe it. Please feel free to comment and provide a better description.

These cookies can gather data about you, how you navigate a website, where your interests lie – all of which is useful data for a company which is trying to effectively market to consumers or where a company or individual wants to know great detail about the amount of traffic coming to their site.

A new EU law comes into force on January 1 which means all ¬†websites using cookies in this way in Europe MUST give a warning about their use PRIOR TO THE WEBSITE LOADING. If you don’t have this facility, you will be breaking the law and you risk a fine.

Think of it this way. When you use your mobile to ring an 08000 number or a similar number, you often get that message which says ‘if you continue with this call, it will cost 7p a minute so hang up if you don’t want to pay’ etc. I always hang up and switch to a landline.

This is a similar warning – which must be visually ¬†displayed before cookies are downloaded, which happens very quickly once you’ve clicked on a website of interest. The aim is to provide further safeguards around privacy on the web.

Personally I don’t mind that some sites use cookies to find out general things about me – maybe I’m naive. But I guess there are many people out there who do mind and don’t’ want websites to know who you are the next time you visit etc. Oh and by the way, WordPress blogs like this do use cookies – so we here at Mellow Media need to take note alongside everyone else.

This law actually came into force in other European countries in May but the UK government delayed it here because it felt that it had not been widely publicised. I think the Government was right in that assumption. For most of us, we’ve never even heard of this EU cookie law and potentially we’re all walking into a trap.

But we can offer a solution which will not cost loadsa money. Is this a bit of shameless marketing? Yes, it is – let’s be upfront. One of our clients, Sarah Arrow, founder of Birds On The Blog, has designed a legal WordPress plug-in to do the job for you.

The key issue is that the message MUST BE DISPLAYED before a website loads – so be aware of products which give a warning too late – apparently that’s the difficult bit for technical designers to get right.

Does your website use cookies? You will probably be needing to read this blog then!.....

We don’t often recommend something unless it’s something we truly think is useful. This new EU law (which the UK government could in the fullness of time and when it’s got its head round more pressing matters, find a way around), has the potential to cost small business people a lot of money.

Sarah has a cheaper solution which gets around this problem, and we are more than happy to help her publicise it . A WordPress plug-in  - for details visit the pithily titled website (!) www.eucookielawwpplugin.co.uk

About Fiona

Fiona Scott is an award winning TV producer and Journalist. It has been said what she doesn't know about PR isn't worth knowing. You can read more about Fiona on her page http://www.mumsinmedia.co.uk/fiona-scott/ . Subscribe to the Mums in Media newsletter to stay in touch.

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