What’s a cookie?
Cookies are small pieces of information stored on your users’ web browsers, they’re commonly used to remember login dates, shopping cart contents and track analysis. However, some are used by advertising firms to build a profile of users as they use to internet to provide targeted advertising.
On 26 May 2012, after being postponed for a year, the EU privacy directive comes in to force. It will require websites to ask users permission before storing a cookie on their browser. Cookies essential to the operation of the site are allowed, but cookies for analytical purposes or third-party advertising are unlikely to fall within exemption.
How does a site comply?
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) suggest using pop-ups or similar techniques such as message bars or a header bar to ask a user for permission. The ICO website uses a notice message at the top of the homepage, though the the text would scare most users off accepting. Once a user does accept, the page reloads and the user now has a cookie specifically to tell the server they have opted in, the server recognises this and the page then includes the Google Analytics snippet.
I use Google Analytics, do I need to rebuild my site?
You’re not alone, Google Analytics is used on around 60% of the top 10,000 sites on the internet. Whilst the ICO restricts the use of Google Analytics to those who have opted in, there are very few implementations on large sites as of yet. The Radio Times and Delia Online both show a popup telling their users they’re working on a user friendly way to obtain their consent.
There’s no official word from Google either regarding the compatibility of Google Analytics cookies with the new regulations. So, keep an eye on the Google Analytics blog and group. But, unless you’re using an ad network, or rank in the top 100 sites on the Internet it’s not worth worrying about just yet.