The forthcoming EU cookie law, which comes into effect on 26th May 2012 means that any company using cookies on their website for anything other than essential functionality needs to request permission from the user to allow cookies to be sent.
I’ve been exploring some of these options today and thought I’d pass on my findings so you have some ideas of how to proceed.
With this in mind I have installed a WordPress plugin called Cookillian to this website. You may have spotted the a banner at the top of the site that lets you opt in or out of cookies. If you opt out you can continue to use the site without receiving any cookies, though some features will not work – for example, if you leave comments you will always have to fill in their details. If you accept the cookies, the site will work as normal. You can, of course, completely ignore the banner – you can still use the site and no cookies will be placed, though the banner will always be there.
I found Cookillian really easy to set up and it looks okay too. I did have to get my hosting company to upgrade my hosting to PHP 5.3 though.
In both the above cases it could be that my Google Analytics will be affected, if people don’t accept the cookies. I’ll be monitoring traffic over the next few weeks and will let you know if I notice a drop in the visitor numbers it records.
If you know you are using Category 4 cookies – for example, cookies that track your visitors’ browsing habits in order to deliver relevant advertising – you may need a stronger form of protection. In that case, you might be interested in the EU Cookie Law Plugin, developed by blogger Sarah Arrow. (Link removed as site appears to have been hacked.) This plugin lets you display a page before visitors land on your website where you can explain the plugins you use and request permission. If it’s given the visitor proceeds to the website as normal (and receives cookies). if it’s refused, access to the website is blocked. It’s a pretty strong arm method but if you know you are using cookies that could be illegal without permission being given, it could be your best option. It costs £10 for single sites – but that’s better than a maximum £500,000 fine!
Sadly I can’t guarantee that any of this will prevent you being caught out – the law is pretty vague in some areas and no one yet knows how it will be monitored or who, if anyone, will be penalised – but make sure you do protect yourself from a possible half a million pound fine!