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    Computer Active (UK): Privacy watchdog to issue massive fines for cookie law breaches

    Computer Active reports that the UK Information Commissioner’s Office is cracking down on companies that violate a law on Internet “cookies,” which collect data about and can track users’ Internet searches and sites visited.

    The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has warned website operators to knuckle down and comply with regulations that govern how cookies are used or face massive fines.

    Dave Evans, the ICO’s group manager for business and industry, said he realised that the privacy watchdog had been criticised for not being “strict enough” and said some of the as yet unnamed operators have now been set a deadline. […]

    Cookies are small text files that record internet users’ online activity on specific sites, and are required to provide popular features like remembering a customers preferences and sign-in details.

    In May this year the law changed; it became compulsory under the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications (PECR) Directive for website operators to ensure people gave consent before cookies were downloaded to their PC.

    Websites also have to make it clear what data is  being stored and what it was used for. The only exemption to this rule is when a cookie is “strictly necessary” to provide a service for example, with online shopping baskets.

    Although the ICO can fine companies that fail to comply with this law up to £500,000 when it came into force in May it took a ‘softly softly’ approach to compliance. […]

    Now it appears that it has run out of patience with many companies. Evans said on an ICO blog that it had provided education and companies should now “know they have to respond to the law.”

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