Marketing

Do I need a Cookie Policy on my Website?

April 19, 2022
12 min read

How you handle the personal data of visitors to your website can make or break their trust in your business.

Today, there are more and more laws that govern how you collect and use personal information online.

Cookie policies have become a controversial subject for website owners and visitors alike. 

But can you do without a cookie policy on your website? 

If you are curious about the subject, then read on. This article covers everything you need to know about cookie policy — what it is, why you need it, and how to add it to your website.

What Are Cookies?

Source: measureschool

Cookies are small bits of data that websites create and store (as text files) when they load. Web browsers use these cookies to track user activity on a page.

For example, it can save your password, so you don't have to log into Instagram every time you want to access your account. 

So, you can think of a cookie as the short-term memory of a website. It stores the website's URL, the cookie's lifespan (or, if you prefer, its "use by"), and an individual ID for every user.

Cookies can also show ads or offer a customized user experience. They enable a website to "recall" details between pages or visits stored in your browser.

In addition, cookies store information that can be highly valuable, especially for users. It may keep track of user activity on the website, where they left off, customization preferences, log-in information, cart contents, and more.

Types Of Cookies 

There are several types of cookies, just like in the real world.

Based on lifespan, the two types of cookies are —session and persistent.

Once you exit a website, a session cookie created in your browser's cache is permanently deleted. 

On the other hand, persistent cookies enable websites to identify you when you return by staying in the browser's cache for a specified period.

Several types of cookies are used for data collection. They include:

Analytical Cookies:

These cookies anonymously track user activities on a website for internal research. But users can reject certain cookies.

Operation Cookies: 

These cookies are crucial for a page's performance; hence, they are not optional.

Visitor Preference Cookies: 

These cookies record information about user cookie consent – whether or not a user accepts a cookie policy on a website. If so, these cookies keep track of that and stop further cookie pop-ups on that website.

Are Cookies Harmful? 

Source: martechcube 

It depends on how you use them -  cookies may target ads or add users to marketing lists.

Until recently though, most internet users didn't know their online behavior was being tracked, But now that they do, it doesn’t sit right with them!

Why Are Cookies Important To Website Owners? 

It should go without saying that a website using no cookies at all would be the exception rather than the rule. If you manage a small business website (or any business), think about this.

For some context on the kind of functionality cookies enable, let's quickly review some common uses for cookies:

  1. Tracking the carts/baskets of customers for e-commerce websites.
  2. Differentiating users in analytics tools like Google Analytics use cookies;
  3. Saving user preferences for website personalization, such as preferred language;
  4. Performing functions like user logins control and blog comments in Content Management Systems like WordPress;
  5. Social media marketing services such as targeted Facebook ads. 

First-Party Cookies Vs. Third-Party Cookies 

First-Party cookies are managed directly by website or app owners. Conversely, third-party cookies are handled by others, and it helps them offer their services. 

So, when your website or app uses third-party services to include features like photos, social media plugins, or ads – it features third-party cookies. 

What Is A Cookie Policy? 

Source: istockphoto

A cookie policy is a pop-up notification or banner that appears when website visitors access a page for the first time.

It serves as a notice to users about the cookies active on the website, their function, and what happens to the data, including identifying third-party cookies.

The cookie policy can come on a separate page or as a cookie consent banner that visitors can click to learn more about the data your website is collecting and sending to third parties.

Laws from data regulation bodies, such as the European Data Protection Board and General Data Protection Regulation, state that website owners must get consent from visitors to collect or store data. With this, users are aware of how their data is collected, and they can manage cookies. 

Main Elements Of A Cookie Policy

There are some specific pieces of information that you must include, regardless of whether you are writing a new cookie policy or expanding an old one.

The following are the elements of a compliant cookie policy:

  • Let visitors know that your website uses cookies.
  • Add a sentence or two defining cookies.
  • Mention the types of cookies you use.
  • Indicate whether or not you use third-party cookies.
  • Inform users of the purpose of your cookie use.
  • Explain how visitors may opt-out of having cookies placed on their devices.

What Are The Requirements For Cookie Policy?

Creating a cookie policy for your website is a simple process. All you need to comply with cookie law are the three following actions:

  1. Determine What Cookies Your Website Uses And Their Function

This can be done with a simple cookie audit or by scanning your website's cookies using tools like CookieYes, OneTrust, etc.

  1. Let Your Website Visitors Know How You Intend To Use The Cookies

This involves clearly stating how your website collects user data, processes, stores, and uses it online. 

  1. Ask For User Consent

You need to get visitors' consent before using cookies or give them the option to decline for better control over their online privacy.

Do I Need A Cookie Policy For My Website?

You need a cookies privacy policy if you want to collect personal data on your website and your visitors are in the EU or California. 

For compliance with GDPR, website owners must get users' consent to collect their personal data. Of course, you can only do this by telling them about the type of cookies on your website and their functions.

In some cases, you may not need a cookie policy, except your website requires cookies to work effectively – such as when keeping passwords or performing other sorts of authentication.

However, if your website already has a privacy policy page, you do not need a 'Cookie Policy page. By creating a unique cookies section, you can easily include your cookie details on the privacy policy page. 

The great news is that Abralytics doesn’t use cookies; instead, we replace them with an anonymous measurement, so your website users have 100% privacy over their data. 

What Is GDPR?

Since taking effect on May 25, 2018, the GDPR, also General Data Protection Regulation, protects user data and ensures data privacy. It keeps businesses accountable for how they collect, use, and preserve information by imposing fines for noncompliance.

While the US does not require affirmative consent for cookies, website owners must comply with the GDPR if they collect user data from the EU.

Where Does The GDPR Apply?

The GDPR applies in the following situations:

  1. An entity with headquarters in the EU. 
  2. An entity not in the EU but offers goods or services (whether it’s free or not) to EU residents; and where
  3. An entity not in the EU but monitors the behavior of EU residents.

Note: The entity in this context could be a government agency, private or public organizations, individuals, non-profits

What Is Personal Data In GDPR?

In the context of the GDPR, "personal data" is any information that pertains to a named or identifiable individual. It comprises details that, when collected collectively, can help recognize a person.

Examples of personal data include fundamental identity data of users like names, genetics, biometric data, and web data like IP addresses, personal email addresses, political opinions, and sexual orientation.

How Does The GDPR Affect My Website?

You must include cookie consent banners or privacy policies on your website if it uses visitors' data. It is crucial for companies and websites worldwide as the internet has no geographical limits. 

Otherwise, you could be sanctioned for noncompliance if a user visits your website (that collects data) from a location under the EU Cookie law or the CCPA. So, your website must be GDPR compliant to be safe. 

In addition, WordPress.com sites and plugins that collect or store data are subject to GDPR. It includes membership plugins, email marketing campaigns, and contact forms.

How Do I Get a Cookie Policy? 

There are many solutions online for you to create cookie banners, privacy policies, and more. So, there is no excuse to be caught off-guard by data regulation bodies for not having a cookie policy on your website. 

After scanning your website for the cookies in use and their locations, you can create a cookie policy. You may tailor your policies to your website using online tools and gain total legal protection. Essentially, your cookie policy must be around the cookies and data your website collects. 

An example of an online tool you can use to create a cookie policy is Termly.

Source: termly.io

Privacy Policy Vs. Cookie Policy

Understanding the difference between the cookie policy and the privacy policy is crucial.

A privacy policy is a document that covers cookies as well as how additional trackers are used and how applications may interact with or store users' personal information.

On the other hand, a cookie policy describes the type of cookies used on your website and their functions.

What You Need To Know About the Cookie Law

Here are some important facts to note about the Cookie Law: 

  1. The GDPR did not nullify the Cookie Law.
  2. The Cookie Law technically covers any technology that accesses or saves information on a user's device, and not only cookies. 
  3. The Cookie Law requires the user's affirmative consent before you use the personal information of others.
  4. Cookie consent must be free, precise, detailed, and based on a concise affirmative action.
  5. The Cookie Law only requires you to describe each cookie's type, usage, and purpose, not a specific list.

Is Consent Obligatory?

Since the GDPR's introduction, the ICO has provided guidance that helps to clarify this matter to some extent. Currently, we are aware that: 

Consent is the only acceptable legal basis for the placement of cookies on a website (you cannot, for example, rely on any other GDPR lawful grounds like Legitimate Interest). Before any cookies are set, you must obtain consent where it is necessary. 

So, sure, consent is needed unless your cookies come under the exception conditions. 

When Is Consent Not Obligatory?

No affirmative consent is needed for these kinds of "essential" cookies. Such "essential" cookies include those used to track items in a shopping cart when making purchases online.

As a result, it is feasible to use cookies on your website without consent —but only in the unlikely event that all the cookies you use can legally be termed "essential." Meanwhile, it's important to know that cookies used for analytics or social marketing would not be considered essential.

How Often Do I Ask For Consent?

Source: exactmetrics

You don't need to display the cookie banner again after the user's first visit. Nevertheless, it could be a great idea to reshow the cookie banner from time to time.

Also, remember that several factors and situations could imply the need to "reconsent" visitors and, as a result, cause the banner to reappear. 

For instance, when you use a fresh, non-exempt third-party cookie. In this case, you would need to get new consent because the earlier one you had from the user would only apply to the third parties you declared when you first collected it.

Final Verdict

As you have seen in this article, a cookie policy is a must-have for any website that collects, processes, stores, and uses the personal information of web users. 

Meanwhile, cookies are not necessarily harmful - E-commerce websites, analytics tools, and many other businesses use cookies for many reasons like saving user passwords and personal information for tailored ads and remembering user preferences. 

In addition, you should add a cookie policy on your website if you collect personal information from users to avoid sanctions from data regulation bodies like GDPR, CCPA, etc. 

If you found this article helpful, check out similar articles on Abralytics.

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