New comprehensive guidelines: how to use cookies properly?

by Lenka Katríková

Cookies. A word that almost every Internet user encounters. What does it mean and what are the rules for using cookies?

Quite simply, cookies is information that a website retains from visitors who use these websites from their device (such as their laptop, mobile, tablet). When a visitor re-opens a webpage, the visitor can read this information from the visitor's device and use it in some way. For example, if you shop in an e-shop and put a certain item in your shopping cart and subsequently leave the website if the website uses cookies after its reloading, the selected item will reappear in your shopping cart. This is because the website uses cookies to "remember" this information by storing this information on your device and reloading it when you visit the site again.

In this context, it should be emphasized that cookies have multiple purposes, ranging from the proper functioning of the website, to monitoring visitor activity on the website.

From a legal perspective, there are certain rules for using cookies. These conditions derive from a European level as they’re contained in the Directive on privacy and electronic communications, which should be replaced in future by the so-called ePrivacy Regulation. Besides, if we can identify a natural person directly or indirectly, cookies contain personal data whose processing is subject to GDPR. Just after GDPR came into effect, there was a public debate on how to properly set and use cookies in both business and non-business environments. Until this date, the Office for Personal Data Protection of the Slovak Republic has not issued any guidance in which it would comprehensively regulate this area.

On July 3, 2019, the British Supervisory Authority (Information Commissioner's Office) issued instructions regarding the proper use of cookies and similar technologies that govern the issue in a very clear way. Also, the British Supervisory Authority has reflected its recommendations into practice. When you visit, you will receive clear information about the use of cookies, and this also gives you the option to directly click to consent to the use of analytical cookies.

Before setting cookies, it is important to emphasize that it is necessary to distinguish between 1 / cookies, which are necessary for the functioning of the website (so-called essential cookies); this group can include cookies that are used to remember shopping cart purchase data, or cookies which help  to load correctly and quickly the website, and 2 /, cookies that are not necessary for the functioning of the website (so-called non-essential cookies), to those we can include analytical cookies, which collect data for appropriate ad customization, for monitoring visitor activity on the website, etc.). For more guidance on which cookies are considered as essential and which are non-essential, please refer to the British Supervisory Authority's section on “How to Exemptions Apply to Different Types of Cookies?”

According to the guidelines, the following rules should be followed when using cookies:

  • the visitor must be given clear and understandable information about the use of cookies (in particular what type of cookies are used, for what purposes and what data they collect), and in the case of non-essential cookies, this information must be provided before consent with the use of such cookies;
  • the visitor should be provided with information on how to consent to non-essential cookies when granted, with information such as “continuing to use the website” does not constitute valid consent;
  • if you use any third-party cookies, you must clearly and specifically indicate who the third parties are and what they are doing with the data collected within the cookies;
  • no opt-out boxes (or equivalents) to accept non-essential cookies may be used;
  • you must give to visitors control over the use of non-essential cookies and allow visitors to access the website even if they do not agree with non-essential cookies; and
  • non-essential cookies should not be placed on the home page of the website, as they should not collect personal information before the visitor agrees to them;
  • ensure that non-essential cookies do not work until the visitor has given their consent.

As mentioned above, when setting up cookies on your website, it is possible to be inspired by the British authority itself, who published information on the home page of his website approximately as follows:

Our using of cookies/How we use cookies

For the functionality of our website, we use essential cookies. We would also like to use voluntary analytical cookies (non-essential cookies) to help us improve the functioning of our website. We will not use voluntary analytical cookies unless you enable them.

For more information about the cookies we use, you can find on the Privacy section of this website.

Essential cookies

Essential cookies allow for the basic functionality of the website, such as its security, network management and accessibility. These cookies can be disabled by changing browser settings but may affect the functioning of the website.

Non-essential cookies

We would like to set up Google Analytics cookies to help us improve our website by collecting and reporting on how you use it. More information on how these cookies work you can find on the Privacy section of this website. “ (Please note for this type of cookies it is necessary to insert the possibility of their acceptance by  actively clicks on consent or their activation).

Given the above, it is obvious that the effectiveness of GDPR does not prohibit the using of cookies, but any person concerned should be able to decide quickly and easily based on comprehensible information whether or not to store cookies on their device.

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