Cookie Law and You


Sometimes when we speak about technology, it can sound like we’re talking about snacking. Between cookies, chips, and our feed, we may find ourselves wanting a byte (and don’t forget to tip your server). On a more serious note, today I wanted to talk a little about one of those tasty sounding items in particular: cookies.

And not unlike with sustenance, in business we often find a natural next move to be expanding beyond the United States. And when we wish to broaden our horizons internationally, both in technology and cuisine, it helps to learn a bit about the new environments into which we’re moving. And if you intend to establish your web presence anywhere within the European Union(EU), it’s important to be aware of (and compliant with) Cookie Law.

Leaving Some Crumbs

Cookies, as you are likely aware, are little files websites and apps store on a user’s computer or device to store basic information like login credentials, preferences, settings, and visitor tracking or other pertinent analytics. And as of May, 2011, any website either hosted in, or directed toward, countries in the EU are required to follow this aptly named, “Cookie Law.”

Cookie Law simply states that if your website utilizes cookies, it must make a user aware of this, and obtain his or her consent to do so. This is typically done via a dialog box that opens upon your site’s loading, and makes the visitor aware that cookies will be used, what kinds of cookies will be used, and then presentation of a clickable choice whether or not to give consent. As it pertains to this Cookie Law, you technically have 3 choices, and each has its own pros and cons:

1. Comply with the law. This has the obvious upside of being legally compliant and therefore worry free about any legal ramifications involved in non-compliance. The downside is that if someone chooses not to allow the cookies, your site may not operate properly or at maximum efficiency.

2. Don’t comply with the law. Non compliance can result in fines and/or having your site taken down. Likewise, users in the EU who are used to the option may distrust your site, and therefore distrust your company. We are absolutely not advocating the non-compliance option, but are listing it here for the sake of being thorough. Just note that even if you think it may be worth the “gamble” to avoid the annoyance of a consent dialog, and are able to avoid being caught, there still may be latent consequences in users avoiding your site and harboring ill will toward your brand..

3. Don’t use cookies. Depending on what your business does, and how it utilizes its web space, this may be an entirely workable solution for you. However, most websites of even lower complexities make use of cookies in some capacity. So be aware of potentially limited functionality if this is your chosen method for addressing EU’s Cookie Law.

Again, we absolutely advise against non-compliance, and any web initiative on which we work geared towards those regions will be in accordance with the Cookie Law. As it turns out, many users will simply agree to the terms presented, barely giving it a glance, just to get rid of the barrier between themselves and your content. Similar to a Terms and Agreements dialog (we’re not claiming this is smart, simply the trend). Plus, people in the EU are used to these pseudo-speed bumps by now, so likely won’t take them as an affront. If anything, it will add to your organization’s perceived legitimacy when a user sees you are Cookie Law compliant.

Knowing is Half the Battle

For some of you, whose businesses and websites are entirely native to the United States (at least for now), this article can be considered strictly as a friendly, “FYI.” Plus the technology – snack puns. You may have those, you’re welcome. But for those of you with an existing and/or impending web presence in the EU, knowing about Cookie Law can save you massive headaches and even money as you grow. With the larger lesson being: when planning to cross over into a new frontier with your technology, always look before you leap.