An open letter to the ICO: A solution to the new EU cookie legislation

It was a law that no UK business wanted, the Government didn’t want to implement, the media didn’t understand and the people knew little about. So how did a near-on technically impossible law get implemented 5 days ago on the 26th May (albeit with a year to implement)?

Just in case you were reading the fourth link I put up there and couldn’t be bothered to look at the whole pdf, let me enlighten you:

Respondents recognised that they had limited knowledge and understanding of internet cookies: only 13% of respondents indicated that they fully understand how internet cookies work and 45% indicated that they had some understanding of them.

Testing of respondents’ knowledge of internet cookies confirmed their limited understanding: Only for one out of sixteen internet cookies related statements a majority of respondents knew the correct answer with other respondents either selecting the incorrect answeror indicating that they did not know the answer.

Go to page 24 of that document. There are 16 questions that were asked of over a thousand random people, with their responses. A third of them thought that cookies “let people send me spam”.

With this in mind, how are we ever going to come up with a system that works? The Government wants to implement something to help users, but the users don’t understand in the first place. Not only that, there is no common solution – every single company that creates solutoins was going to come up with its own.

Fortunately there is a helping hand out there. Here is an option that is easily implemented across every single website. It is guidelines that they could easily hand out to the general public so that they’ll understand what is going on. Users will be able to make informed decisions about whether they want to use a website based on the cookies that they are giving out.

Note that I think that websites should do housekeeping and should only have cookies for services that they still use.

So here are the rules. Each icon should be placed at the top of the page (I don’t believe that the average website can’t find somewhere at the top of the page next to their logo). I think they only need to provide the icon with the most cookies. Each icon has appropriate alt text and should be linkable to a page that tells users how they use the information from the cookies and how to opt out.

This site uses cookies to remember your preferences and to perform vital site functions such as remembering your shopping basket through your visit.


This site uses cookies to anonymously track what you do across the site. This information is used to improve the site and improve the site’s Marketing.

This site uses cookies to alter its content based on your past browsing experience on this site.

Third parties who have sent users to this site from their own use cookies to ensure that they get paid for passing on business.

This site has taken content from other websites (eg YouTube) and put it on their own site. Those sites use their own cookies to monitor usage of their content across the web.

Third party advertisers are allowed to put adverts on this site. They use their own cookies and may take your actions on other sites or information that you have entered from other sites to target the advert to you.

Have I missed anything out? I did buy a whole  packet of biscuits so that I could make these icons.

More importantly – does this satisfy what the ICO is trying to do:

  • Educates users on the ways that websites use cookies to monitor what they do
  • Gives users an easy option to opt out if they want to continue using the service (assuming the icon’s link points through to ways of doing this)
  • Provides a scalable solution so that users aren’t asked to do the same thing in hundreds of ways depending on what tacking company the website happens to use
  • Is easily implemnetable by all websites
  • Is not intrusive of the users’ journey

I think it does. Now all we need to do is get the ICO on board and get them to produce another set of guidelines in a short space of time. Ed Vaizey, if you are reading this, you are more than welcome to steal it and pretend it is your own.

Not the actual buscuits though. They’re mine. Nom, nom, nom.

Posted in Cookies, Web Analytics

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*