The ICO today published a new set of guidelines on cookies advising companies and public sector organisations that from the 25th May 2011 they will need the consent of web users before they can download a cookie onto home computers and laptops. Information commissioner Christopher Graham said:
"The implementation of this new legislation is challenging and involves significant technological considerations. That's why we've already consulted a wide range of stakeholders.”
"But we want to spread the net as wide as we can and would welcome further comments from others who have practical examples to share. This advice is very much a work in progress and doesn't yet provide all of the answers."
A variety of firms have complained that the advice is complex and lacks a clear message, especially considering the short space of time until the regulations come into effect. Stephen Pattison, UK Director of the International Chamber of Commerce, in a statement said:
“Despite the timely release of the guidance, it falls short of giving prescriptive answers to the compliance issues faced by businesses, something that will frustrate those businesses who are seeking a solution now.”
Releasing this guidance with just over two weeks notice and without any clear outline for enforcement seems like a haphazard way of dealing with internet privacy. Web users must have their right to privacy respected, but a compromise must be reached which ensures website hosts understand their responsibilities without being dissuaded from running useful sites. Targeted adverts can be beneficial for consumers, increasing the relevance of ads thanks to information about behaviour gleaned from the cookies.