Public sector IT gets cookie law service


The body representing UK public sector IT professionals has launched a service designed to ease the burden of complying with the latest cookie regulations.

The Society of IT Managers (Socitm) is offering advice, auditing and monitoring facilities for dealing with the European Union (EU) directive that came into force on 25 May 2011, requiring websites to gain explicit consent from users before placing cookies on their computers.

The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which is the UK Government body responsible for enforcing the new law, has given organisations one year to make necessary changes. Although it has said complaints about serious breaches will be investigated during this period.

Martin Greenwood, programme manager for the public sector body's publishing division Socitm Insight, said the ICO was keen to encourage sector-based cookie compliance schemes like its own, which is provided in partnership with risk assessment consultancy Cookie Reports.

"Without such guidance and support, the directive could compromise the speed of digital development at a time when all public services are being encouraged to go digital by default,'" he said

The law requires website owners to be aware of all cookies on their site, whether set by them or third parties.

In response, the new Socitm service carries out an initial audit of cookies appearing on main public sector websites to produce a report detailing every cookie and the pages on which they appear.

The package also includes a monitoring service, delivered as a shared service, that integrates with an 'active cookies page' designed to offer visitors information to support informed choice about the use of cookies on the site.

And it also offers a 'how to' guide, which discusses the available options for informing the public about cookies in ways Socitm said would ensure compliance with the legislation.

Do companies still love cookies?

The service also comes at the same time that preliminary findings of new research into the use of cookies has shown over 10 per cent of websites are still using them to track user activity without consent.

The research, carried out by security researchers at Stanford Law School, found over half of Networking Advertising Initiative (NAI) members had not removed tracking cookies from their websites.

This was despite that fact that the self-regulating group of advertising companies pledge to provide users with an opt-out to the use of online data to target behavioural advertising online.

"We've long recognised that consumers should be provided a choice about whether data about their likely interests can be used to make their ads more relevant," Chuck Curran, NAI executive director, commented on the findings in a blog posting.

"But the NAI code also recognises that companies sometimes need to continue to collect data for operational reasons that are separate from ad targeting based on a user's online behaviour."

Miya Knights

A 25-year veteran enterprise technology expert, Miya Knights applies her deep understanding of technology gained through her journalism career to both her role as a consultant and as director at Retail Technology Magazine, which she helped shape over the past 17 years. Miya was educated at Oxford University, earning a master’s degree in English.

Her role as a journalist has seen her write for many of the leading technology publishers in the UK such as ITPro, TechWeekEurope, CIO UK, Computer Weekly, and also a number of national newspapers including The Times, Independent, and Financial Times.