Government set to comply with EU Cookie lawE-privacy directive to come into force in May 2011

21 September 2010

A screenshot of the delete cookies function

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The government has published a consultation paper on how it plans to implement the E-privacy directive of the revised European Electronic Communications Framework (EECF).

The EECF is the regulatory framework that applies to all transmissions networks and services for electronic communications including fixed and mobile telecommunications, email, access to the internet, and related content broadcasting.

The E-privacy directive amends the existing directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications and includes an Article that states that from May 2011, all websites must get every visitor's prior consent before sending cookies to their computers.

Consent will not be required, however, in instances where the cookie is necessary to deliver a service which has been explicitly requested by the user, or where 'functional' cookies are required for the delivery of a specific function essential for a website.

Take a look at the Which? guide to ensure your personal details are kept safe online  

Cookies are pieces of data sent by websites to a visitor’s web browser and are stored in the cookie directory of the visitor’s hard drive. Some 'non-functional' cookies can be used by websites to track and predict a visitor’s surfing habits.

Currently, websites automatically send a mixture of functional, non-functional, session and persistent cookies to a visitor’s computer.

Which? responds

Concern has been expressed by some campaigning organisations about the privacy implications of the data being collected by non-functional cookies, and the way this data is being passed on to third parties for behavioural marketing purposes.

Rob Reid, Which? senior policy advisor, welcomed the consultation. ‘We fully support any changes that provide for transparency, choice and control for consumers over the use of online cookies,’ he said.

‘While we welcome the consideration of the practical implications of an explicit consent requirement in light of the consumers’ online experience, we also call for the online marketing industry to be more open and transparent about when and how it uses cookies and the information it collects about consumers’.

The consultation closes on 3 December. Responses should be sent to

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