Introduction to the E-Privacy Directive
The E-Privacy Directive, which came into effect on May 26, 2012, is an EU-wide regulation that focuses on the transparency of online tracking. The directive mandates that consumers should be informed about the tracking activities that occur when they visit a website. This includes the data that’s stored on the website’s server, which can be accessed when the same device revisits the site.
Implications for Business Owners
The E-Privacy Directive directive brings about significant changes for business owners. They will need to ensure that they obtain clear consent from consumers before collecting their data. This not only means finding an effective way to gain this consent but also potentially seeing a decrease in the amount of customer data available due to increased transparency.
Loss of Traffic Reporting in Analytics
When a visitor chooses not to be tracked, it directly impacts the data captured by analytics tools. Even though the traffic from such users still exists and they continue to interact with the website, their activities remain invisible in the analytics report. This can lead to a perceived drop in website traffic, even though the actual number of visitors hasn’t decreased. It’s essential for business owners to understand this distinction, as making decisions based on incomplete data can lead to misguided strategies.
Methods of Obtaining Consent
There are several ways businesses can obtain consent from their visitors:
- Pop-up Windows: A window that appears when a user visits the site for the first time, or when there are changes in the law or content, asking for their consent.
- Header/Footer Content: Incorporating the E-Privacy Directive Policy within the header or footer of the website.
However, it’s essential to choose a method that is not too intrusive. For instance, many users might find pop-up windows disruptive, and relying solely on browser settings might not be foolproof.
The Importance of Compliance
Nick Stringer, the head of regulatory affairs at the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB), emphasises that there are no shortcuts to compliance. It’s crucial for businesses to be transparent and adopt good business practices. After all, it’s the law. The Information Commissioners Office provides resources to help business owners understand and comply with this new directive.
A Brief Overview of Cookies
For those unfamiliar with cookies, they are small text files, sometimes encrypted, stored in browser directories. They help users navigate websites more efficiently and can serve various purposes, such as identification, user preferences, and authentication. Disabling these cookies might hinder the user experience on some sites. Here’s a brief summary:
What Are Cookies?
When a user visits a website, a small text file called a cookie is created and sent from the website to the user’s device. This cookie helps the website remember the user’s previous interactions and preferences. When the user revisits the site, the cookie is retrieved, allowing the website to recall past visits and preferences.
These cookies store information about a visitor on the website’s server. For returning visitors, browser cookies simplify certain processes. For instance, they can automatically log a user into a secure section of the site, eliminating the need for manual login every time.
Persistent Cookies (or Tracking Cookies):
These cookies remember a user’s specific preferences for a website. For example, they can recall how a user prefers to view items on a site, such as sorting products from low to high prices or viewing categories in alphabetical order. These preferences are remembered every time the user accesses the site from the same device.
These cookies monitor a user’s actions during a single website session. Their tracking capabilities end once the user closes the browser. They don’t store long-term data and are deleted after the session ends.
For a more in-depth understanding of cookies read our brief summary below, you can visit All About Cookies.
The Legal Documentation of the E-Privacy Directive
Below is a summary of how the actual EU E-Privacy Directive reads, but for a more extensive, in-depth look at the law, take a look here to further educate yourself about this important new piece of legislation: ePrivacy Directive Procedures.
The new requirement is essentially that cookies can only be placed
on machines where the user or subscriber has given their consent.
(1) Subject to paragraph (4), a person shall not store or gain
access to information stored, in the terminal equipment of a subscriber
or user unless the requirements of paragraph (2) are met.
(2) The requirements are that the subscriber or user of that terminal
(a) is provided with clear and comprehensive information about the
purposes of the storage of, or access to, that information; and
(b) has given his or her consent.
(3) Where an electronic communications network is used by the
same person to store or access information in the terminal equipment
of a subscriber or user on more than one occasion, it is sufficient for the purposes of this regulation that the requirements of paragraph (2)
are met in respect of the initial use.
“(3A) For the purposes of paragraph (2), consent may be signified by a
subscriber who amends or sets controls on the internet browser which
the subscriber uses or by using another application or programme to
(4) Paragraph (1) shall not apply to the technical storage of, or
access to, information–
(a) for the sole purpose of carrying out the transmission of a
communication over an electronic communications network; or
(b) where such storage or access is strictly necessary for the
provision of an information society service requested by the subscriber
We suggest you consult with your web development team to discuss the best options for implementing this mandatory piece of legislation and remember that the deadline for the new directive is May 26, 2012.
Staying Ahead in the Age of Online Privacy
The E-Privacy Directive is there to protect website visitors, especially in an age where there is more demand for online transparency and the protection of consumer privacy. By understanding the role of privacy cookies on your website and securing explicit consent from your visitors, you not only safeguard your business from potential penalties but also ensure adherence to this directive. It’s crucial to remain updated and proactive in developing privacy regulations. Misinterpretations of the E-Privacy Directive have been common, with some businesses either overcomplicating its implementation or not applying it accurately. Staying informed and seeking clarity on such matters is essential for maintaining trust and ensuring a seamless online experience for users.
Sources and citations:
- E-Privacy Directive: This is the main subject of the article. It’s an EU-wide regulation that came into effect on May 26, 2012, focusing on online tracking transparency. However, a direct link to the official directive was not provided in the original content.
- Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB): Mentioned in relation to Nick Stringer’s statement on the importance of compliance. The IAB is a trade association promoting digital advertising. You can learn more about the IAB here, though the original content did not provide a direct link.
- Information Commissioners Office: This office provides resources to help business owners understand and comply with the new directive. While the article mentions its role, a direct link to the office or its resources was not provided in the original content. You can visit the ICO official site here.
The World Wide Web is still relatively new in this modern age of technology and as such, whether we agree with them or not, the laws and best practices will continue to evolve. Don’t let these new laws and legislations overwhelm you.