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Irish websites warned they could face fines for using cookies

Following a sweep across 38 websites, the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) advises websites to get control of cookies and consents within a six-month period. Here's how to comply with the DPC's guidelines.

IRISH DPC IN COOKIE SWEEP

Irish website owners and operators have been warned by the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) that they could face enforcement actions over the use of tracking cookies.

Following an examination of the use of cookies and similar tracking technologies on a selection of websites across a range of sectors, the DPC reports that “users of Irish websites are being tracked by third parties to a significant degree across their browsing habits and daily online activities”.

While only a small number of websites (38) were targeted in the sweep, the results indicate a total lack of even basic information regarding privacy and the inability for users to give unambiguous consent for the placement of tracking technologies or cookies on their devices.

The DPC states that “most ordinary users will not be aware of the extent to which they may be tracked across their devices at home and at work, and across their browsing, reading and social habits”.

Although users are rarely tracked by name, the ability to track them by unique identifiers set through cookies means users are being targeted as individuals.
Such targeting/profiling is subject to the GDPR and requires valid consent from the users of the website.

SIX-MONTH GRACE PERIOD BEFORE ENFORCEMENT

The fact that bad practices are widespread even among companies and websites that are household names suggests a more systemic issue that must be tackled.
Therefore, the DPC has published a new guideline for data controllers for the use of cookies and other tracking technologies.

The new guidance will be followed by possible enforcements where controllers fail to bring themselves into compliance voluntarily.
The DPC sets the grace period to six-months for websites to get compliant.
Link: Key takeaways from the Irish’ DPC’s New Guidance to cookies.

HOW TO OBTAIN VALID CONSENT TO COOKIES?

If you are looking to bring your website into compliance with the DPC’s requirements for cookies and consent, we here provide you with a short overview on how to obtain valid consent.

Obtaining valid consent requires:

To collect valid consent, you need a cookie consent solution (banner) which:

  • Informs your visitors of cookies (who owns them; their purpose; lifespan)
  • Provides your visitors with the option to decline cookies (and tracking)
  • Holds back cookies before consent is obtained
  • Does not assume consent with pre-ticked boxes
  • Collects and stores consents for 5 years (in case of inspection by DPA).
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