Almost all European websites are now illegal due to a new law on cookies.
If you’re in Europe, your website is probably breaking the law right now.
A cookie is a really common technology for remembering who you are between webpages. They allow things like login, social buttons, tracking visitors, and ads that remember who you are, and target stuff at you.
In Europe, a site with any of these features now has to ask the user for permission to use them, say with a pop up, or an accordion, like this. In the UK, the maximum fine for not doing so is £500,000.
Consider the humble Like button. You may not know, but simply visiting a site with this button on it is enough to tell Facebook what you’re looking at. Concern over possible abuse of that information has created this law. Now, these Like buttons cannot be shown without asking nicely first.
You also won’t be able to login, or comment, or share, or set preferences without being nagged about it in advance.
The idea is to protect user’s privacy, but it comes over pretty heavy handed. It’s a bit like banning all music to prevent another Justin Bieber album.
We think the law is terribly misguided.
Firstly, it will annoy and confuse users.
Say I’m driving to work, and a man appears in the middle of the road. “Stop!” he says. “I have important information about taking care of your brake lights! Please read this long document and sign to say you’ve read it.” Pretty soon I’m just going to run those people over.
You see while people do care about their privacy, they also care about being interrupted [pause]. The law works against human nature, and as such is doomed to fail. But not without…
…penalising EU businesses first.
This law is a giant kick to the crotch of European business. Imagine a news website based in Europe. This site now has to ask their readers for permission to allow them to share their articles. Permission to show them the targeted ads that pay for those articles.
Of course, they could just move to another country.
Ultimately, the law makes innocent website owners criminals.
Over 90% of websites break this law. Which either means Europe is awash with dastardly criminals, or this law is total clownshoes.
Probably the biggest threats to our online privacy are big organisations like Google and Facebook. As you saw, Facebook can silently track you with their Like buttons. But who’s liable for this under the new law? Not Facebook. It’s the website owner.
And whilst a half million pound fine is a huge deterrent for most, to Google that’s small potatoes. I think they’d rather pay that then ask all their visitors if they mind being tracked on every search.
So basically, the law screws over website owners, annoys users; but fails to deter those we might justifiably be worried about.
I run a small business in the UK, and like many we think this law sucks. So we created a protest website – No Cookie Law – where you can learn more, protest and help spread the word.
We think more people need to know about this. Even if we can’t change the law, we don’t have to take it quietly. Thanks for watching.