Email and the Law

The future of cookies

You might not have heard of the Government Digital Service (GDS), a new quango within the Cabinet Office that will probably have a significant effect on email marketing and online sales. Its first public act has been to publish a long awaited update to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guide to the new cookie law which will be enforced as from 26 May this year.

The new guide, the Implementer Guide to Privacy & Electronic Communications Regulations (PECRs), defines types of cookies and deals with the new consent requirement for their use. Not before time you might think.

Whilst the impact on email marketing is hardly massive, most of us will have integrated websites campaigns.
The main point of the Guide would appear to be the classification of cookies. These run from ones the ICO are not concerned about to those which are seen to be beyond the pale. Where ones useful in email marketing fall is not exactly clear but somewhere in the middle is all we can say at the moment.

There has been a decision as to how the regulations will be enforced. The classification of cookie will define the level of consent required from the browser.

The Guide suggests that implied consent is a problem and should not be depended upon in the main. However, it carefully (and no doubt deliberately) backs away from defining what is required.

The GDS wants websites in the public sector to take on the role of public informant. There is an assumed ignorance in the general public of the nature and function of cookies and they require such websites to carry explanations. There is nothing to preclude you publishing something similar although, perhaps, with some modification to the one seen here.

You could let the public know how badly their browsing experience will be affected by disabling cookies and how secure their personal details are.

Whilst the legislation does not specify email marketing images, it seems it would be best to include information, perhaps with a link to a more detailed page, when customers subscribe.

The enforcement appears to be moving towards a lighter touch than feared.



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