Tag Archives: cookie

Google complies with EU law

Google will place a cookie notification on the SERP which will allow the searcher to know that cookies are being used by Google (Schwartz 2013: online).

A photo showing how Google UK will display a cookie notification.

A photo showing how Google UK will display a cookie notification.

What are cookies?

You can find out about the various types of cookies to allow you to make informed decisions about their use and misuse. The reason Google is including a cookie banner on the SERP is to abid by UK Cookie Law.

I have a cookie question

Would you like me to clarify any of information on cookies? Have you got a cookie question?

Reference

  1. Schwartz, B. (2013) Google Notifying Searchers That They Use Cookies (EU Localized Google). [Online] [Accessed on 08th April 2013] http://is.gd/spOtM9

Cookies and UK law

Cookies, identified and explained in a what are cookies post, can be used by UK (and European) websites so long as the website notifies a user that cookies are being used. In a nutshell, cookies are text files which contain information on a specific computer and should be explained to the user of your website via a cookie policy, for example.

Cookies: what is it all about?

If you use cookies you will need to let your website users know what they are and why you use them. You can do this by developing a pop-up window, or using a header bar. You will also need to consider creating a cookie policy, or have a cookie section within your privacy policy. The law was created in Europe, which must be implemented in the UK, to allow each website user to have an awareness about what information is stored about them and for what purpose. Most users will not object to using cookies, so do ask them to give their consent.

In order to understand this topic I thought it would be best to try to summerise the other cookie information to help you, the creator, developer and user of technology.

Important things for the user

User’s have the right to know what cookies are being used and for what purpose. User’s also have the right to accept or deny cookies. A free and basic cookie widget can be found on OpenGlobal’s website.

It is important to know the rights of the user because your website, through the unauthorised use of cookies, may be breaking the law.

Information on cookies

The best way to display information to users is by splitting it into two categories:

  • Snapshot information (quick, short, everyday definitions and brief use)
  • Detailed information (detailed, technical definitions and exact use)

Snapshot information allows the user to quickly understand the concept of cookies, so iconography, for example, is very suitable to briefly explain what cookies are in plain English. Detailed information, on the other hand, can have a webpage of its own. This page can include a list of what cookies you are using (e.g. performance cookies), what category they fall under (e.g. category 3).

What does the ICO recommend?

The ICO, an organisation in the UK which focuses on information rights, gives excellent advise on how to gain a users’ consent. For the purposes of this short post, I will focus on three forms of consent:

  1. Accepting terms and conditions
  2. Obtaining consent as users select website settings
  3. Notices via pop-up windows, or choice technology, such as a header bar, for instance

Browsers and consent

In short, do not rely on browser options as giving user consent. Strictly speaking the e-Privacy Regulations will allow browsers to give consent, but this is not recommended by the ICO. I suspect that web browsers will be improved for cookie use within the coming year, or so.

Good cookie practise

This law can be seen on every large organisations’ website. E.g. Flybe, Out-law’s notification bar and Tesco all offer cookie information. By looking at these websites you may get ideas about what option works best for you.

Think of a cookie page like any other page: have excellent content, easy to read, well researched….

If you would like me to answer a specific question, please feel free to send me an e-mail / comment below.

Yahoo! advertising and cookie use

My Yahoo! gives personalised searches to their users by tracking what category they use most often. It does this by adding cookies to a cookie friendly computer.

The connection between searches and advertising

Unlike Google, Yahoo! is clearer on how they personalise marketing to their users. Search terms (i.e. the words/phrases a searcher uses, or has used in the past) are likely to give the highest weight for advertisements. This is followed by page views (i.e. what a searcher has actually viewed) and whether a user has clicked on an advertisement before (Yahoo 2012).

However, Yahoo! use cookies frequently to customise searches by tracking what categorises a searcher uses as they search (Cookie Central no date:online).

Yahoo’s policy suggests that if a Yahoo! searcher searches for “cars” a lot, and has viewed a lot of searches on the topic of cars, they will receive advertisements on cars. Due to the nature in which an inverted index is constructed, this also suggests that advertisements also stem on their inverted index. Specifically, advertisements that are tagged as “automobile” will show on searchers SERP who has only used the word “cars”.

Mazmanian (2012) suggests that free access search (namely, Google) allows users to be fed advertisements.

Does age matter to search engines?

Unlike other free access search engines, Yahoo! state that they do not use advertising for users who are under thirteen years of age.

I don’t have a Yahoo! account because I do not use their search engine; however, this suggests that a Yahoo! user must have a profile with the search engine. After all, how would Yahoo! know what age their searcher was?

Adults who use Yahoo! cannot opt-out of tailored advertising. Yahoo’s privacy policy does not stop an adult signing up for a new account, lying about their age, for example, in order to except them from advertising altogether.

What are computer cookies?

A post, entitled what are cookies? can be found here, published a few weeks ago outlines the various types of cookies and what they are.

What are cookies?

Computer cookies are text files

The literature on cookies is fragmented. For example, AboutCookies.org (2012) is an official website which is endorsed by the Information Commissioner’s Office (UK) that recognises three types of cookies: permanent (persistent or stored) cookies, session (or transient) cookies and flash (Local Shared Object) cookies (Pinsent Masons no date: online). Whereas, other sources will argue that there are four types of cookies: session cookies, performance cookies, functionality cookies and targeting cookies (Rouse 2005: online).

The technology behind cookies is well understood. That is to say, cookies are comprised of text files which are sent from a Web server to a user’s browser (Peng 2000:150). The text within cookies can be altered to allow cookies to store unique information. For this reason, cookies can be used to identify a specific computer. Cookies cannot identify a particular person because several people might share the same computer.

However, researchers have identified other types of, and terms for, cookies:

HTTP cookies
HTTP cookies are the collective term which refers to the common types of cookies (i.e. session, performance, functionality and targeting cookies).
Flash cookies
Flash cookies, or Local Shared Objects, are used by websites that run Adobe Flash.
First part cookies
A first party cookie is a term used to identify a relationship a user has with a specific website.
Third party cookies
A third party cookie is a term used to identify a relationship a user has with a website they have not directly visited.

BBC (2012) concludes that cookies can only be accessed and amended by the server who sent it/them (online: no date).

Without cookies certain processes would become difficult to carry out. For example, an electronic commerce (e-commerce) website can allow one user to have several items in their basket and pay for these items in one process. Thus, cookies are useful for certain processes online.

However, these text files are not broken down, line by line to the end user and are often encoded (Pierson 2011:34; Wills & Zeljkovic 2011:53). Therefore, the exact extent to which cookies are used for in a search remains unknown. Specifically, cookies are used within a search, but their use of that search is not precisely known. As well as other methods of data collection (e.g. encoding of a Web address), cookies are used to track users (Wills & Zeljkovic 2011:53).

Search engines analyse user interactions just as a webmaster, for instance, would monitor and analyse the interactions of a client’s website (Aljifri and Navarro 2004:379). Unlike standard websites, search engines can easily record a person’s searches because they are providing a service (Aljifri and Navarro 2004:379).

References

  1. AboutCookies.org (2012) Cookies: Frequently Asked Questions. [Online] [Accessed on 21st December 2012] http://www.aboutcookies.org/Default.aspx?page=5
  2. Aljifri, H. Navarro, D, S. (2004) Search engines and privacy. Computers & Security. 23 (5) pp. 379 – 388.
  3. BBC. (2012) About cookies. [Online] [Accessed on 21st December 2012] http://www.bbc.co.uk/privacy/cookies/about/?source_url=/privacy/bbc-cookies-policy.shtml
  4. Peng, W. (2000) HTTP cookies – a promising technology. Online Information Review. 24(2) pp. 150 – 153
  5. Rouse, M. (2005) Transient cookie (session cookie). [Online] [Accessed on 21st December 2012] http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/definition/transient-cookie
  6. Wills, C, E. Zeljkovic, M. (2011) A personalized approach to web privacy: awareness, attitudes and action. Information Management & Computer Security, 19(1) pp.53 – 73