The Truth about Cookie Consent

Head ups! Google wants you to comply with their cookie consent policy by 30th September 2015. There isn’t any mention of a direct penalty from Google if you don’t comply, but if you’re using a Google product such as Adsense and don’t comply, you’ll be violating Google terms of service and may even find yourself in a spot of bother with the European data protection authorities.

Cookie consent is the way you notify your readers that you collect, share or use their data via cookies. In most cases you need your reader to consent to use of a cookie, usually via a notification bar or pop-up overlay. If you use Google products on your blog such as Adsense, it’s now compulsory you do this.

What is a cookie?

For those new to this game, a cookie isn’t just a type of biscuit but also a small piece of data in a text file. Websites that use cookies send and store data in the reader’s browser for use the next time they return to the site.

Don’t worry, it’s common practice and they only contain useful info such as pages visited or items in a shopping cart. It’s good to know they can’t carry viruses or malware, so really cannot harm a readers site.

WordPress uses cookies for logged-in users and for commenters. Plug-ins also tend to set their own cookies to store preferences.

Cookie Consent

Regardless of the mass debates and compliance vs. usability arguments, Google recently announced a new policy regarding web cookies that affects any blog or website that has readers or users visiting from the European Union.

Cookie consent has been best practice for a while, with guidelines and policies jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof . But you must now tell your readers if you use cookies. Full stop. There’s no movement on that point any longer now Google has waded in.

Do I need consent from every reader?

Not in all cases. It depends on the readers country’s policy on cookies.

For example: In the UK (at time of writing), you must get the readers consent to use a cookie, but it’s acceptable for that consent to be implied. So, if your notification tells the reader that by continuing to use your site they are giving consent to cookie use, that’s ok.

To make sure you cover all policies, it’s a good idea to have the reader click a button to ‘opt-in’ to cookie use. If the reader isn’t happy with that, it’s helpful to provide a link to more info on cookies and how to turn them off in your web browser.

Uk Cookie Consent WordPress Plugin on website

In my opinion, unless you are collecting sensitive personal information on your blog, then implied consent is enough to comply. It’s what I use on my own and client websites in the UK.

However, as there can be financial penalties enforced, I’m not a legal expert so if you are in any doubt about how best to comply, I would speak to a solicitor.

The EU’s legal requirements for cookies can be found here.

Why is there such a cookie kerfuffle?

There’s really no reason to be concerned if a website is using cookies. After all, it just means the website can deliver the reader a better user experience.

That being said, you are storing and accessing a small amount of data on your reader’s computer or device. So, it’s rightly now policy to let your readers know you’re doing this and that cookies are not being used to gather information unnecessarily.

So, how do you know if your blog is using cookies?

If you let readers make comment s on your posts, or you’re using products like Google AdSense, DoubleClick for Publishers, and DoubleClick Ad Exchange, you’ll be using cookies.

To make sure you comply with the EU user consent policy, you must:

  • Tell readers you use cookies,
  • Explain what the cookies do and why,
  • Get consent to store a cookie in their browser.

As long as you do this once for each reader, you don’t have to repeat it every time they visit your blog.

If you’re really not sure if your blog uses cookies, carry out this simple cookie audit using Google Chrome.

How to put cookie consent on your blog

There are many ways to include cookie consent on your blog or website.

WordPress Self Hosted Blogs:

WordPress users have got it covered with a number of specialist plugins that will do most of the hard work for you.

I’ve personally used on my WordPress sites:

UK Cookie Consent
A simple, lightweight plugin that shows an unobtrusive yet clear message to users that your site uses cookies. Uses implied method with opt-in option. wordpress.org/plugins/uk-cookie-consent/

Cookie Law Info
Allows you to easily customise your cookie consent banner from your WordPress dashboard. Uses the implied method with opt-in option. wordpress.org/plugins/cookie-law-info/

Shareaholic
A lot of WordPress users like to use the Shareaholic plugin for displaying share buttons, but are unaware that the plugin also gives the option to display a cookie consent banner. Uses implied method with opt-in option. blog.shareaholic.com/cookie-consent-banner-app/

WordPress.com Blogs

As I write this, WordPress.com don’t offer an integrated plugin to enable cookie consent on your blog. I’m sure this will change shortly as Google now enforce compliance by 30/09/15.

The best way to comply in the meantime is to add a text widget and let your readers know that way.

Otherwise, maybe now is a good time to migrate to a self-hosted blog ☺

Other Blogging Platforms

If you blog on other platforms, Google have put together a great resource to help you: www.cookiechoices.org

As the 30th September deadline approaches, I’ll do my best to keep this post up to date and add in the best ways to comply for each blogging platform now that Google has set a deadline for compliance.

For now, I wonder how many of you currently comply with ‘cookie consent law’ out of choice?
Let me know below if you do or not and your opinion on the new policy:

4 Replies to “The Truth about Cookie Consent”

  1. Hello Peter.

    Thankls for this wonderful post, I’ve been seeing the Cookie consent on some blogs but it didnt know it was compulsory for all those using Google adsense on their blogs, I will add it to my blog right away. Thanks

  2. There was a time in my life when ‘so little time, so much to do’ referred to being young & restless and in particular, to socializing with young ladies.
    Sadly, those days are now but a distant memory & it now means there is still so much to learn about blogging, website design & writing that first novel.

    Your ‘Cookie Consent’ advice was a delight to read.

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