Mmm, Cookies!

A delicious, wholesome cookie

I couldn't find anything for "diabetic Hitler" on Google image search, so here's an image of a cookie stolen from Wikipedia instead.

UPDATE 16/03/2014: The cookie law is dead in the water. I've removed the little widget from my website that requests consent as the technology behind it was actually holding back some of the features I wanted to add. In short, if you don't like cookies but you want to look at my website, tough titties! Very professional of me, I know. The bare minimum requirement from me legally is to explain to the end-user what cookies are and inform why my website uses them, which I have done extensively via this page.


Everyone loves cookies! Except for Hitler, or diabetics. Or, in the worst case scenario, diabetic Hitler.

Unfortunately, governing bodies are set up to be diametrically opposed to anything decent, good and wholesome, so the EU have decided to bring in legislation against cookies. On May 26th 2011 the UK brought this law into effect, meaning that cookies are now illegal.

What?! Wait, you're not talking about the delicious baked goods at all, are you?

No, I'm talking about something the web has been using for yonks. Germany have got their pants in a twist because they're all worried about data privacy and shit.

Do you want to know what a cookie is? It's a little text file that gets stored on your machine that contains various information, depending on what it's being used for. Common uses include:

  • Remembering your preferences for a particular website
  • To assist shopping carts when buying online (as in, a key component)
  • To aggregate visitor traffic so website owners can see where their visitors are coming from
  • Potentially to track what websites people have visited and offer them targeted advertising

It's the last two that has the EU concerned, so they've just decided to make an integral part of how the internet works illegal and damn the consequences. I don't know about you, but I'm all for targeted advertising. I get fed up of seeing that animated gif of a cartoon woman with a pot belly slimming down that claims "1 tip for a flat belly" (personally I think she looks happier with a bit of meat on her bones anyway), or that other one about a "mother's secret to removing wrinkles".

You're rambling. Should I be worried about cookies?

Of the twenty seven or so members of the EU, the UK is one of three EU members stupid enough to actually act on this EU legislation. This is presumably because half the people running the country barely know how to use a typewriter or wipe their arse, let alone use or understand this new fangled thing called "the internet". I think the fact the rest of the EU members can't be bothered should be a fairly good indication of how much of a threat cookies are.

Look, I'll level with you and be completely transparent about how my site uses cookies:

  • All of the pages on this site have a Google Analytics tracking code in them that allows me to see what meager traffic I get from this site and justify to myself that it's worth keeping this thing running. The tracking extends to what part of the world you came from and possibly what search term you used to find my site. That's it. It doesn't give me your name, address or bank details (but if Google could get on that I'd be most appreciative).
  • The blog, being a Wordpress installation, uses cookies when you log in as part of its functionality and there may be some other blog-based things that utilise cookies - basically if you want to see if the blog falls over, go ahead and turn off the cookies.
  • Labb Rat might initiate a cookie as part of a thing called a "session" which helps track where you are in the game and what items you've picked up.

I've ran a test on my site for cookies, and there's a whole bunch there that even I don't know what they do exactly. The following cookies run but I'm not going to ask for consent for them because as far as I'm concerned they come under "required for website to work/provide a service" clause of the law:

  • DISQUS, the commenting system I use on the blog to allow Facebook and Twitter logins apparently uses one.
  • There's some YouTube videos embedded into the site that have cookies related to them, but we all like videos so sod removing those.

I'm not even sure the cookie law applies to this site, as it appears to be aimed at businesses. However, I'm not taking the risk or a half a million pound fine that I couldn't afford to pay off in my lifetime, thankyouverymuch. That's another problem, this law is just too vague.

The irony is, if I really wanted to track people visiting the site, I could set up a rudimentary PHP script that logs what operating system you're using, your ip address, what your host name is, what port you're using and a whole bunch of other neat stuff. The best part? As long as I don't use a cookie (which I wouldn't), it would be entirely legal. Hell, most servers have logs built in that capture this information anyway!

In all honesty, I don't care what piece of shit computer you're using so I don't log that, but I am interested to see if I'm getting visitors, hence the Google Analytics code.

So should I opt in for cookies on your site?

Frankly, if you're that worried about cookies, you're clearly an uninformed, reactionary berk and I don't want you visiting my site anyway. Any smart person would just allow the damn things and then the internet can get back to running as it should.

Incidentally, there's an option on your browser to delete all cookies and anti-virus software such as AVG often flags if a tracking cookie gets set (it's actually a complete ball-ache considering the amount of times it pops up). That's how much of a threat they are. They're so much of a threat that you can delete them from your machine manually.

I get the feeling that you're biased against cookies and haven't given me the full picture

Geez, you're a paranoid one. Here's some reading material - have a look through and decide for yourself:

Satisfied?

I bet you've got some fun facts for me

I do!

  • Over half the UK government websites aren't ready to comply with the new law.
  • In order to be able to remember whether or not you've accepted cookies, most websites will actually set a cookie to store whether or not you've opted in. Even the website of the ICO (the governing body for this law) does this!
  • The bigger players on the internet, such as Google and Facebook, have pretty much already said "f*ck that" to the EU legislation and thus will not be looking into becoming compliant.

...You're right. This law is incredibly stupid.

Glad you've come around to my way of thinking! Have a cookie.

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