ajdurant - Andy Durant

Random notes and things

Free cookies for everyone!

Or rather, no cookies until you’ve finished all your vegetables and opted-in (mostly the opted-in part).

So I discovered today, or possibly rediscovered, about the ICO cookie regulations that were actually put in place last year, but the good old UK government decided to give webmasters/website owners a year to comply before allowing the ICO to take any action.

Basically, because most Internet users are not the most savvy of people, according to the ICO (and I might have to agree with them to some degree there), they don’t want people to allow themselves to unconsciously allowing data about themselves or their browsing etc. to be stored in cookies on their computer (or other device).

In 2003 there was legislation that websites had to allow users to be able to opt-out of cookies if they wanted to. But in 2011 that got re-written to be you have to have informed consent from each user that cookies are given to.

This comes into force soon, and as a person who is normally fairly hot on news of this nature, I find it surprising and slightly worrying that I only found out today properly what it’s all about.

So what are cookies and how do you get them (or not get them)?

Cookies are little data files your browser stored on your computer that are sent by websites. These are generally to improve your browsing experience. This could be by storing your preferences on a website, or to keep you logged into a service, or remembering you items in a shopping basket. Or most commonly by tracking what pages you visit within a website.

You may wonder how page tracking helps you as a viewer, well if webmasters can see what content is popular on their website then they can develop that content and make it better. If there is an area that is lacking then it can be brought up for improvement, or pruned off the web tree. So in allowing site owners to track within their site you help them to create a better web for everyone.

So why the ban on cookies? (they are yummy you know)

There are certain ways in which they can be used in a less desirable way. Advertisers can use them to track across all the websites that show their ads, this allows them to target their advertising more towards you, dependant on your browsing habits. Now this seems to be the main type of thing the ICO want to stop, but in doing so they are causing pain and annoyance to webmasters.

The main issue really is that people are not informed. However there will always be people who have no clue, yes they probably should be protected, but it shouldn’t have to cause hindrance to everyone else.

Also this ruling is completely dependant on webmasters implementing solutions on their own sites. If they really wanted to inform people they should be targeting browser developers.

So the cookies I give you (for free, and who doesn’t like free cookies) are from google analytics, which let me see what the best parts of my website are, so I can make them even better :)

As a final note if you want to stop advertisers tracking you, the best way is to block the ads completely. If you have a browser that uses extensions, and I strongly recommended that you use one if not (Google Chrome, FireFox) then look up ad-block uBlock Origin, the Internet without adverts is a Lovely place :)