How the European Cookies Are Crumbling (on the Web)

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“Cookies,” say the bureaucrats at the European Union. “We hates them.”

And therein lies a problem.

Cookies, you see, are everywhere on the net. And your computer, too. A cookie is a teeny-tiny little text file that gets left on your computer by pretty much every single website you visit.

They’re actually quite useful. Cookies are how Facebook remembers you’re logged in. How Google knows which adverts you’re most likely to click on. How online stores are able to greet you by name.

Cookies. Are. Everywhere.

But in the interests of consumer privacy, the European Union told all its member states to create laws that would force websites to ask users for permission to save cookies.

That’s except for “essential” cookies, which you don’t have to ask permission for. Including the one your site will set once it’s asked people if they agree to having cookies, and they’ve said no.


If you’re not quite confused enough about this, watch the amusing video above, by U.K.-based net consultants Silktide. It explains everything one step at a time.

The body responsible for overseeing this law in the UK is the Information Commissioner’s Office, which is trying to set a good example by overlaying its web pages with a banner asking visitors to agree to cookies. There isn’t a “No” option.

The ICO has told developers in the U.K. that it won’t prosecute anyone for breaking this law for another year, but that hasn’t made them any happier about what, to them, is a troubling change in the law.

They think it’s too draconian, too all-encompassing. Too much like banging a nail into the wall with an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Or, as the Silktide team puts it, it’s like banning all music to stop Justin Bieber making another album.

Wait, actually: that’s a great idea.

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