ICO data watchdog starts cookie crackdown

Websites which do not comply with new red tape on collecting cookie data from online customers will be contacted within weeks by the Information Commissioner’s Office who are beginning a crackdown on infringements.The move apparently could affect about 65 per cent of UK companies which, according to estimates by KPMG, are still not notifying visitors to their websites before installing cookies to track online behaviour.

This makes them potentially liable for fines of up to £500,000.

Websites such as those run by Tesco, Sainsburys, the Daily Mail and even government departments such as the Department for Work and Pensions are among those who do not appear to have changed their websites since the new laws came into force four months ago.

The ICO said it had received 486 complaints about non compliance and had increased the size of its enforcement team by 60 per cent to 37, to investigate infringements.

Since May UK websites have been required to get users’ permission before using cookies – small text files that record online activity.

The ICO had delayed enforcement of the rules for a year from 2011, to allow companies time to adjust.

Many online retailers have been reluctant to act because they fear pop-up boxes with warnings would put off customers from using their sites, and that they would lose valuable analytical information if they could not use cookies.

However, the ICO has stepped back from requiring explicit consent by ticking a box and some websites – such as ours – have found an acceptable compromise by displaying an unobtrusive notification banner at the bottom left of the web page.

If you would like help in complying with your UK and EU online requirements please contact us now: