UK businesses could face fines of up to £500,000 if they fail to meet tough new website privacy laws which come into force this month, according to EMW, the commercial law firm.
EMW warns that there are no exceptions to the law for smaller businesses.
The regulation will come into effect on 25 May 2012 and will mean that visitors to the website will have to give permission for the website to download ‘cookies’.
A cookie is a temporary computer file which gathers information about the user’s online activity. It is activated by a user when they access particular pages on a site. The cookie is sent from the website to the user’s computer and remains once they leave the site. When the user returns to the site the cookie allows the website to remember their preferences and settings.
“This law marks a major shift in responsibility for the use of personal data: previously the user had to opt-out, now the user has to opt-in from the beginning,” Holman continues.
EMW says that businesses need to take three practical steps to prepare for the new rules:
- review what cookies are used by their website
- ensure that these measures are implemented on or before the 25 May 2012
“The risk of a £500,000 fine for extreme infringements of the rules should send a strong message to businesses that they must be ready in time,” said Holman.
EMW says that those businesses that have already taken action to deal with the new law should make sure that the websites cookie message is clear, user friendly and understandable.
“For most businesses it is very important that web users enjoy using their websites, so strict compliance with the law is not enough,” adds Matthew Holman.
“To be successful, businesses need to make sure that their website also remains user friendly. That can be quite difficult to do when asking users for permission to use their personal data. To this end, collaboration between web designers and lawyers is important to ensure that the website meets the legal requirements whilst remaining pleasing to the eye and user friendly.”
By Matthew Holman, Solicitor, EMWGoogle+