UK government watches cookie deadline whizz by

With a deadline for cookie laws set to take effect next week, many government websites will fail to comply, according to the Cabinet Office.

Following a 2011 EU directive the Information Commissioner’s Office gave all UK sites until the 26th of May this year to meet guidelines for cookies that would involve site visitors opting in to having their data recorded.

However, the government has admitted that it is a long way off meeting the guidelines.   A Cabinet Office spokesperson told the BBC that the government is working to complete compliance at the earliest possible date.

Many in the private sector have been slow to comply with the guidance, and government departments are no different, the Cabinet Office said.

In fact, the “majority” of departments will fail to meet the deadline.  

While the ICO is unlikely to be happy about even the government ignoring its guidance, it appears that there should be some leniency for those who are showing a “strong commitment” to make changes – eventually, at least.

Last year, communications minister Ed Vaizey gave his backing to the EU directive, saying that the government would allow one year for a gradual roll out of the new guidelines.  

Upon releasing the guidelines last year, the ICO said that it would not fine those who had not complied by the deadline, stating that the government was expecting a “phased approach to implementation”.

However, as the ICO deadline zooms by next week with little action from the public or private sector, the ICO might have to change its tune.

Open Rights Group Executive Director Jim Killock said, speaking with TechEye, that the latest embarrassing development in the cookie saga is thanks to a continued lack of clarity from the government.

“This shows a remarkable reluctance to grapple with the fact that users should be asked before data is collected about them and shared in ways they wouldn’t expect,” Killock told TechEye. “They should be showing the lead, and if they are not then they are part of the problem.”

Killock believes one of the biggest problems has been a lack of clarity from the government about how best it can proceed with the cookie law implementation.

“The government should come clean and explain precisely what data is being given to whom and in what way,” Killock said. “That would go a long way to exposing exactly what needs to be done.

“A lot of the questions around cookie compliance are overblown – really we are talking about a very small number of cases around analytics which could be solved quite easily, particularly if they worked with Google to ascertain that data is not being shared across Google’s service, which can be done,” Killock said.