From Sunday, 27 May a change in EU law will come into place that will see all websites require permission from users before cookies can be downloaded to their computers.


All websites must disclose to users that they have to download cookies, which are tiny data packets stored by the internet browser, and receive "informed consent" before the site can be accessed.

Cookies are used by websites to communicate with the device that a user is browsing with. Information such as whether the person has visited the site before, what other sites they've visited recently, and the user's location are given to the website.

Cookies don't cause any harm to a computer and mostly go unnoticed, but some users may be unhappy to know that websites track their browsing habits and use this information to display what are deemed to be relevant adverts.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) will soon set up an online service where the public can report websites that don't follow the new law, but due to predictions that the vast majority of websites will not be ready in time, the ICO has said it will not take immediate action and instead offer guidance to offenders.

Typically, websites are expected to display a pop-up window requesting users to agree to exchanging cookies before they can view the rest of the site.

Websites that do not inform users about cookies could face a maximum penalty of £500,000, but the IPO has insisted that it would rather produce guidance and education on the matter than issue such large fines.

Some cookies are required to make websites work properly, but the ones that must be disclosed are filed under performance, functionality, and targeting and advertising.

Performance cookies collect anonymous data from everyone who views a website, this data catalogues how a user interacts with the website and is used to improve how a website works, but it cannot track you.

Functionality cookies allow users to customise how a website looks to them. These cookies can remember usernames, language, and regional preferences to provide information like local weather and traffic reports.

Finally, it is advertising and targeting cookies that are the most controversial. These cookies help to deliver advertisements that are relevant to you. They do this by recording what websites you visit, which is then supplied to advertisers, who serve up an ad based on your browsing habits.

With the new law coming into place over this weekend, it will be interesting to see how many sites are up-to-date by Monday. We're expecting some big names to be criticised in the coming weeks for not adapting to the new law, and just last month a study by KPMG revealed that 95 percent of UK companies had yet to comply.

According to the BBC, many government websites will fail to be updated in time, with a Cabinet Office spokesperson saying: "As in the private sector, where it is estimated that very few websites will be compliant by 26 May, so it is true of the government estate."