Cookies warning for local firms

Steve Pye, chairman of the Blackpool branch of the Federation of Small Businesses.

Steve Pye, chairman of the Blackpool branch of the Federation of Small Businesses.

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Businesses are slowly accepting the fact that they need an online presence to market and promote goods and services.

In order to address and even mitigate any potential and existing threats for internet users, various Governments have deemed it necessary to form various regulatory bodies that ensure that website visitors can view safely and securely without fear of being scammed or spied upon.

It is now 12 months since the EU issued a directive based upon the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations in 2003. This covers the use of cookies and similar technologies for storing and accessing information stored, on a user computer or mobile.

A cookie is a small file, typically of letters and numbers, downloaded on to a device when the user accesses certain websites. Cookies are then sent back to the originating website on each subsequent visit.

In 2009 this directive was amended. All websites must get consent for cookies and similar technologies by adding an option on the home page for visitors to accept or decline. The Information Commissioners Office (www.ICO.org.uk) is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights.

The have the power to issue enforcement notices.

For example, a notice may be served to compel an organisation to start gaining consent for cookies. Failure to comply with an enforcement notice can be a criminal offence.

They can require an organisation to pay a monetary penalty of up to £500,000.

To find out more visit the website www.ico.org.uk/for_organisations/privacy_and_electronic_communications/the_guide/cookies

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