The Cookie Jar – or how not to create legislation

If you’re into websites you may know that the “Cookie Directive” comes into play on the 25th of this month, in which websites much ask users to “opt-in” before accepting cookies.

Now, the first problem of course is that most people in the western world neither KNOW what a cookie is NOR do they give a DAMN – and why should they – it’s just another “techie thing”. Well, the reason, if you’re a company to give a damn, is quite simply money – and lost business.

Let me explain – I’ll do my best to avoid techie talk – if I fail, do let me know.

There are a couple of basic kinds of cookie… essentially, if we go back to the wild west when the world wide web was created (i.e. last century) initially the plan was to serve up web pages with links – one page would link to another – and you could get to any information you wanted – that’s it. nothing more, nothing less.

At the time, words like Amazon, EBay didn’t exist (well, other than the jungle in the first instance) and for most people, “log in” meant shoving a block of wood on the fire. Today we live in an irreversibly different world.  We log into websites, we expect them to remember when we were last in, our preferences, keep track of our shopping cart… viewing preferences etc and website owners expect to get all sorts of fancy graphs about usage, how many people have been to the site, what kind of gear are they using, what pages did they visit etc.

The whole caboodle relies on COOKIES.  The simplest cookie (I’m not even going to name them to keep it simple) stores a number on your computer – and that number is used to link pages together and keep track of everything. Another kind of cookie stores text (might be encrypted, might not) as a harmless file on your computer.

That’s it. Sadly some companies use this to track stuff that really isn’t essential – most of those companies come from overseas – i.e. somewhere the Information Commissioner has absolutely NO control over, but there you are.

Do you remember the SPAM laws coming in – they were going to STAMP OUT spam – and there was I sitting in my office thinking “but HANG ON…. most of it comes from the States… or China… or Russia and we have absolutely no control AT ALL over this). So at the time, off I went with John Harris (who was at the time the National IT Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses) to the the then relevant person’s office – a Mr Stephen Timms – to ask about what we were doing about the fact that most of the spam came from overseas.. he OPENLY agreed there was not much they could do – having saddled UK businesses with this burden. Well, it’s happening again with COOKIES.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been holding conversations with everyone from laymen to legal eagles on the subject – without much luck – then out of the blue my colleague and member of my IT committee came up with this..

http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/enterprise/374734/ico-no-fines-for-breaking-cookie-rules

There would appear to be a window of opportunity here – clearly the ICO have realised they’re onto a loser – this need PRESSURE – there is a window of a year, by the look of it…. we cannot afford to waste time… this needs KNOCKING ON THE HEAD!!!

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