UK websites still riddled with undisclosed cookies, study finds

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UK websites still riddled with undisclosed cookies, study finds

Warwick Ashford

Many UK organisations still have work to do to comply with the so-called "cookie law" that comes into force on 26 May, a study from privacy firm Truste confirms.

Truste found an average of 14 tracking tools per webpage, which means a user typically encounters up to 140 cookies browsing a single site.

The study found that 68% of the trackers belonged to third-parties, usually advertisers, rather than the site's owner.

"The high level of third-party tracking that is taking place is certainly an area of question and scrutiny," Dave Desy, Truste's vice president of marketing, told the BBC.

"It's not illegal to do the tracking - the question is whether you are giving consumers enough awareness that it is happening and what you are doing with the data," he said.

From 26 May 2012, websites need to obtain users' opt-in consent first if they want to install cookies that pass on information about browsing activities to third parties, or risk fines up to £500,000.

The regulation on the use of cookies derives from an amendment to the EU's Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive.

Although the EU directive came into force on 26 May 2011, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) gave UK businesses 12 months to "get their house in order".

But 95% of UK companies have yet to comply, according to a study by consultancy KPMG that analysed the websites of 55 large businesses.

Information Commissioner Christopher Graham says it is not too late for UK organisations to prepare for the "cookie law" deadline at the end of May.

From 26 May 2012, websites need to obtain users' opt-in consent first if they want to install cookies that pass on information about browsing activities to third parties, or risk fines up to £500,000.

The regulation on the use of cookies derives from an amendment to the EU's Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive.

Although the EU directive came into force on 26 May 2011, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) gave UK businesses 12 months to "get their house in order".

But 95% of UK companies have yet to comply, according to a study by consultancy KPMG that analysed the websites of 55 large businesses.

However, Information Commissioner Christopher Graham says it is not too late for UK organisations to begin preparing, but the clock is ticking.

"We gave industry a year's grace, but when that runs out we will certainly be responding to complaints about organisations that are not following the rules," he told Computer Weekly.

The ICO's concern, he said, will be with UK companies that cannot demonstrate they have thought about compliance, and that they are in the process of putting something in place to give consumers the right they have under the law to give their consent for cookies to be placed on their machines.


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