The new EU cookie law, which will be enforced from 26th May, has been causing quite a stir amongst business owners who use the internet to market their product. The regulation appears to be well-meaning, as it seeks to ensure web users are protected from unwelcome marketing and privacy violations. The cookie law, however, has been criticized in some quarters for being too vague and costly. This article will provide a simple overview of the cookie law and how you can ensure your business does not fall afoul of its directive.

The new regulation states that all websites based in an EU member state, or websites that actively cater to individuals residing in an EU member state, must gain consent from their users before placing a cookie on their computer. Cookies are used by the vast majority of business websites to: record the number of visitors to the site; target advertising; store items in a shopping basket; authenticate user identity.

The key words to be gleaned from the directive are 'informed consent.' Your users must be able to give their informed consent to allow your business website to place cookies on their computer. The tone and method by which you seek consent is crucial to ensure your business does not suffer from a decrease in traffic to your website.

While the regulation is indeed vague in terms of what constitutes informed consent, the smart business owner will use this to their advantage, ensuring they adhere to the directive while causing minimum hassle to their customers. Rather than placing irritating pop-up windows in the middle of the screen, warning users that the website is trying to store information on their computer and asking them to accept this, many sites are taking more subtle approaches to the regulation.

Small windows, placed discreetly in the screen's bottom corners and informing users that cookies are being used to enhance their browsing experience, and that by continuing to view the site they are giving their consent, seem to be a much better option. According to many experts on the cookie law, these methods are sufficient to comply with the regulation.

BBC complies with EU Cookie Law

The directive of the cookie law is concerned with protecting the user, rather than the operator of a website. However, as long as you can show you have made an attempt to gain a user's informed consent, you should have no issues with this directive.