Security is often perceived as an obstacle, and the introduction of the EU Cookie Directive has not done anything to change this negative perception. Old authentication cookies can threaten user privacy and, founded as a result of public concern, this law seeks to close the gap in online security.

However, numerous organisations are questioning whether it is even possible to comply and are keen to learn how they can obtain every user’s permission to set a cookie on their computer that doesn’t expire when the user navigates away from their website.

Third party cookies enable companies to target users with adverts specific to their interests, based on people’s browsing history. While marketers would argue that this enhances the online experience, the public are apprehensive about who is tracking their electronic footprint.

Global implications

Many websites are accessible to the global consumer market, but this law is open to interpretation by each member state of the EU. The confusion surrounding how the directive is applied across the borders is forecast to cause greater problems if organisations fail to react immediately to avoid significant reputational damage caused by regulator fines.

Needless to say, smartphones will also be affected by this law’s extensive reach calling for better awareness amongst consumers and marketers alike.

Online businesses that rely on Google Analytics to measure the return on their investment will almost certainly face a challenge once fully governed by the EU Cookie Directive; the use of this tool without obtaining users’ permission will be considered illegal.

However, compliance could still be an option; it is possible to edit Google Analytics’ tracking code to comply with various cookies laws around the world, enabling organisations to identify their most effective and profitable marketing strategies.

Balanced approach

Educating consumers about how they can ensure their privacy online by securing their web browser settings is a simple and effective way to strike a balance. Raising awareness of what your organisation is doing to protect your customers’ personal data is crucial in encouraging people that it is safe to share their information online.

There is no escaping the internet as consumer technology continues to advance; promoting secure knowledge management is fundamental to developing the existing trust between business and consumer.

Public versus private

Public computers present the greatest risk because an attacker can authenticate their connection based on your old cookie. Browsing sessions should be restricted to encrypted (password protected) Wi-Fi networks; avoid connecting to public Wi-Fi networks where rogue connections often go unnoticed.

Act now

Online businesses are advised to assess the necessity and intrusiveness of the cookies they currently use and consider how they can allow users to control these cookies. Act now to create a strategy which allows users control over cookies, and in the meantime, follow in the UK’s Data Protection Commission’s website’s footsteps and publish clear disclosures about cookie use.