Do I Need A Cookie Policy On My Website?

Alex Franch
March 31, 2023

Table of Contents

When you use google analytics on your website to understand your customer demographics or when you put facebook share button on your content, you place a cookie on your website visitors’ devices.

If you use such tools on your website, you may ask “do I need a cookie policy on my website?”

If your website is accessible to UK users, it is likely that you will have to comply with both UK GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and UK PECR.

To comply with these laws and regulations, you should have a cookie policy on your website.

In this article, you’ll learn about how cookies work and the legal requirements for a cookie policy under the UK Law.

Interested to find out how you can create a Cookie policy for UK GDPR? Read more.

What Are Cookies?

Imagine that your prospects visit your website and fill out the online form to sign up for your service. If the online form includes multiple web pages, your website needs to be able to remember all answers prospects previously provided. This is necessary for them to submit the sign-up form successfully.  

Therefore, your website needs functionalities to help your visitors easily navigate on the website. 

This is where cookies come into picture: Cookies are small text files that is placed on the end-user’s devices. When a user visits a website again, the cookies help websites remember the user and choices he made. Furthermore, it enables website features to function properly. 

However, use cases of cookies are not limited to website functionality. Cookies can also be placed on user devices for other purposes such as data analytics, advertisement and tracking.

For example, google analytics is a common cookie used to analyse website traffic and user behavior on websites. 

Among these categories of cookies, tracking cookies are highly popular. In fact, a recent study found that over 90% of all websites scanned contained at least one tracking cookie.

One common example of tracking cookies is Facebook Pixel. When you use Facebook Pixel on your website, you can collect information about the actions your visitors take on your website. Furthermore, you can measure the effectiveness of your ad campaigns and even retarget your website visitors.

Let’s take a deeper dive into different categories of cookies and provide specific examples.

What Types Of Cookies Are There, And What Do They Do?

Cookies can be categorised based on various criteria. In this section, we will focus on two main ways used to categorise cookies.

types of cookies infographic

Cookie types by their use cases

(i) Necessary cookies

Necessary cookies are “essential to provide the service requested” by the website visitors.

These cookies make it possible for visitors to access and use features of a website and enables website to operate properly.  

For strictly necessary cookies, you do not need the consent of website visitors under the UK Law. However, your cookie policy still needs to list these cookies and explain how they work.

The UK Data Protection Authority (ICO) gives following examples for strictly necessary cookies:

  • “Cookies that are essential to comply with the UK GDPR’s security principle for an activity the user has requested – for example in connection with online banking services”      
  • “Cookies that help ensure that the content of a page loads quickly and effectively by distributing the workload across numerous computers (this is often referred to as ‘load balancing’ or ‘reverse proxying’)”

There are also other cookies that fall under this category such as:

Cookies that enable visitors to navigate across a website

Cookies that make it possible for users to log in to a website.

(ii) Analytics cookies

This category covers cookies that is used to collect data about how visitors access and use a website. For instance, analytics cookies collect information about how long visitors stay on specific web pages, from which sources they come to visit a website and what types of actions they take on website, such as clicking on specific content.

(iii) Targeting cookies

Targeting cookies are used to collect information about certain website visitor groups and then create profiles to serve these visitors with targeted ads. For example, these cookies may collect information about the location of a visitor, his/her device, screen dimensions and source url to put him/her in a specific category. Based on this profile, specific visitors are served with targeted ads.

Targeting cookies can be placed both by the website itself or by third parties.

Cookies provided by social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest also fall under this category.. These cookies enable social media platforms to provide personalised content and targeted ads to their users. 

Following are examples of targeting cookies provided by social media platforms:

Cookie types by session

(i) Persistent cookies

These cookies remain on your website visitor’s device even after visitors leave your website.  Persistent cookies enable your website to remember visitors’ choices and their actions between different website visits.

For example, google analytics cookie distinguishes different visitors to a website and each session and it is stored permanently.

(ii) Session cookies

Session cookies are temporarily stored on user devices during the visitor’s session and it expires when visitor leaves your website. 

What To Include In Your Company's Cookie Policy

When you place cookies on your website visitors’ devices, you need to provide clear information to them about what cookies are used, what these cookies do and how long they state on user's device. 

Therefore, you should craft a cookie policy that contains all these details so that you do not fall foul of the UK requirements on cookies. 

When you use cookies on your website, you will have to comply with the PECR article 6 and provide visitors with “clear and comprehensive information” about the cookies. 

Bear in mind that you will be automatically subject to this transparency requirement so long as you have active cookies on your website. Even when you do not collect the personal data of your visitors or you anonymise their personal data, cookie rules will still apply to you.

Although the PECR article 6 does not specifically describe what your cookie policy should include, it sets the following requirement: You must provide the information about cookies in accordance with data protection law, which includes the GDPR. 

Luckily, the UK Data Protection Authority ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office)  clarifies what your cookie policy should include.

What to include in your cookie policy?

The ICO requires that you must inform users about the following:

  • The cookies you place on user devices;
  • the purposes for the use of each cookie;
  • the duration for each cookie or cookie category,
  • How users can disable cookies 

How to obtain consent for UK Cookie law compliance?

While cookie policy goes a long way towards cookie law compliance, it is not enough to protect you from violating cookie rules: When you obtain consent from website visitors to place cookies on their devices, you need to implement a consent mechanism and and this mechanism must satisfy certain conditions.

The UK ICO requires that your consent mechanism provide users with total control over all cookies present on your website, including third-party cookies. 

One of the most prevalent consent mechanisms in practice is cookie consent banner. This banner allows your website visitors to consent to the use of non-necessary cookies such as analytics and targeting cookies.

What are the consequences of not having a cookie policy in place, or of not complying with GDPR regulations?

If your cookie policy fails to comply with the UK GDPR and/or the PECR, you may face the following fines:

  • The ICO can fine directors (rare but possible) of an organisation or the organisation (more common) itself up to  £500,000 for failure to comply with cookie transparency requirements.
  • If your cookie policy fails to comply with the UK GDPR transparency requirements, you may face a fine in amount of £17.5 million or 4% of your total annual worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.

In the past, different data protection authorities slapped both small and big businesses with fines for failure to comply with cookie rules.

For example, the French Data Protection Authority fined Google in  the amount of 150 million euros because Google did not make the “rejection of cookies” as easy as accepting them.

In Spain, the Data Protection Authority imposed an 18,000 Euros fine on Vueling because website users were unable to reject cookies.

In addition to the legal fines you face, there is another invaluable cost you may have to pay when you do not comply, the loss of your customers’ trust.

In fact, according to a recent Study by Cisco, consumers list “transparency” as the key factor to build trust when it comes to transparency. By having a GDPR-compliant cookie policy, you may demonstrate to your customers that you are open about how you use cookies and handle their personal data.

Building this trust can be key to increasing your customer retention rates and creating a better public image.

How do I create a cookie policy for my website

Considering the risks of a non-compliant cookie policy, you need to have a GDPR-PECR compliant cookie policy that shield both you from legal liability and that can earn your customers’ trust. 

However, crafting a compliant cookie policy is easier said than than for a few obvious reasons:

  • You need to have a clear idea about what cookies are active on your website,
  • You need to constantly adopt your cookie policy to reflect the changes to active cookies,
  • You need to provide your cookie policy in languages of people who are your target audience.

To overcome these difficulties and create  GDPR compliant cookie policy that earns your customers’ trust, you need help from an expert.

This is where Privasee can help.

Privasee is your one-stop solution to overcome these challenges and implementing a GDPR-compliant cookie policy in three steps:

- Mapping your active cookies: The Privasee portal takes your personal data map and creates policies/cookie banners from this information.

- Keeping up to date with global regulations:  You do not need to spend thousands to make changes to your cookie policy. Privasee automatically updates your cookie policy with the information from their data map that they always keep up to date.

- Mulitiple Languages support: If your website is accessible to users in third countries that speak other language, you should have your cookie policy in those languages as well. Privasee’s policy helps you have it in multiple languages.

To comply with the GDPR-PECR cookie requirements without expending excess resources, try Privasee Platform here.

Wrap Up & Key Takeaways

In this article, we talked about what cookies are, different types of cookies and how you can achieve compliance by having a GDPR and PECR-compliant cookie policy. 

Crafting a compliant cookie policy, keeping it updated and accurately mapping active cookies on your website is tricky but not impossible:

Privasee can help you overcome these hurdles.

Book your Free Audit today, craft your cookie policy in multiple languages and see it in action!

Alex Franch is the co-founder and CEO of Privasee. With a background in computer science and cybersecurity, it is no surprise that he is a highly analytical problem solver; now putting these skills to use within the data privacy space. Alex is passionate about GDPR, and productivity and spends a lot of time doing sports as he values the importance of having a work-life balance. He is excited to help businesses generate documentation, and become and maintain GDPR compliance through the Privasee platform.

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