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The New UK Cookie Law And How It Affects Internet Marketing

Cookie Useage Newsflash in UK

Cookie Useage Changes In UK

Hi here’s a bit of newsthat you really should be aware of if you’re marketing in the UK, now don’t panic about it but best to know what’s coming up because there’s bound to be much discussion on the forums about it and the effects it may have, so here goes ……

There’s a new law in the UK that regulates cookies and how they’re used. It’s going to go into effect in May 2012. This new law is troubling to Internet marketers and may force us to completely change the way we do business.

The law means well. It’s designed to cut down on spyware and other invasive techniques. Basically, it says that in order to put cookies on a user or subscriber’s computer, you need their consent first. You also have to explain to them exactly what the cookies are and how they’ll be used.

They conducted a bunch of research over the last few years among consumers to see how much they really knew about cookies, and the surveys found that people don’t know much at all. So, the whole idea behind the law is that you have to be transparent about everything. But it’s the consent part that’s most troubling.

Most of us depend on tracking cookies.

If you’re doing affiliate marketing, marketing using Facebook, or selling Amazon products, this is going to be a major headache. You may not be able to do business in the UK. Some folks are calling it the death of affiliate marketing (in the UK, at least).

So, how are we going to get around this? Let me first off say that, in all honesty, I don’t know. I don’t have the answers. We’ll have to wait and see how it pans out before we can decide on a plan of action. But there are a few things that did occur to me about the new law.

First of all, the term ‘consent’ is pretty vague. If people see a disclaimer or check a box allowing cookies, is that consent? Do you just have to let them know that the site has cookies that’ll be stored on their computer? An argument can definitely be made for this.

This also won’t affect sites where there’s a log-in. If they have to register to use your site, you shouldn’t be affected. But again, if you’re doing affiliate marketing, it’s a little tough to do that. Forcing your visitors to log-in is one most step between traffic and sales.

If you’re marketing to a list, that’s not a problem.

Somewhere during the sign-up process, let them know that cookies will be stored on their computer and it shouldn’t be a problem. That’s consent.

There are a couple of things affiliate marketers can do. You can give your affiliates a unique URL that redirects to another page with a coded order button. This way, you get them off your page. You can also change that URL frequently to protect it. Another option is to use query string URLs. These are URLs that store data on their own server and not the customer’s computer. In other words, no need to use cookies. The only trouble with this is that you have less security and reliability.

One thing I’m wondering is how they’re going to enforce this law. There are hundreds of thousands of sites that use cookies. How are they going to find them all? The penalty is a pretty hefty fine, but in order to get fined, someone needs to report you.

I don’t know if or how they’ll enforce it, but it’s guaranteed to be a huge mess. Let’s all keep our eye on the news around May and June. It may be a rough summer.

Toby Russell

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