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What Are the Risks of a Generic Template Cookie Policy?

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In today’s digital world, cookies are a crucial tool businesses employ to enhance user experiences and facilitate targeted advertising, particularly for online services and website operators. However, this comes with responsibility and the need to inform users how cookies operate and what they will do. This is why businesses using cookies need a comprehensive cookie policy to notify users about their cookie use. While companies may want to save costs using a template cookie policy, these policies often fail to adequately address the complex legal rules surrounding cookies and expose them to risk. 

Cookie policies need to be very clear and transparent so users fully understand how cookies are used, how cookie settings work and how they can control the use of cookies on their devices. This article explores the risks of a business using a generic template cookie policy.  

Cookies are small text files stored on users’ devices, such as computers or phones, and play a vital role in modern online business. They enable companies to identify users and store essential information, such as login details and preferences. Businesses deploy cookies for various purposes, including customising user experiences and targeted advertising based on browsing behaviour. Sometimes, cookies can collect personal data and are subject to data protection laws such as the UK GDPR

There are various types of cookies, such as first-party and third-party cookies. Cookies also serve different functions, including: 

  • strictly necessary cookies;
  • performance cookies;
  • functionality cookies; and
  • targeting cookies.

However, cookie use is heavily regulated. In the UK, cookie usage is governed primarily by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR). Compliance with PECR requires businesses to follow various rules, including obtaining user consent before deploying cookies and providing clear and comprehensive information about cookie usage. 

A cookie policy serves as a critical document, offering users detailed insights into how you will use cookies.

A cookie policy should contain various critical information, including:

  • the types of cookies used;
  • purposes of each cookie type; 
  • the duration of cookie usage;
  • third-party access to cookies; and
  • instructions for managing cookie preferences and opting out. 

Using a generic or template cookie policy without tailoring it poses several risks for a business. Therefore, whilst such templates may seem like a quick and cost-effective solution, awareness of these risks is vital.

Some of the critical risks to be aware of are as follows:

Your Cookie Policy Template May Be Out of Date or Incorrect 

Using a generic template cookie policy, particularly one obtained from the internet, poses the risk of needing to be updated in the fast-moving legal landscape. Cookie regulation constantly evolves, with frequent regulatory frameworks and guidance updates. A cookie policy downloaded from the internet may not reflect the most recent changes in legislation or regulatory developments, leaving businesses vulnerable to non-compliance. 

However, maintaining an accurate and up-to-date cookie policy is essential to ensure alignment with current legal requirements. Therefore, companies must stay attentive and regularly update their cookie policies to reflect the latest legal and regulatory developments in this rapidly changing landscape. Working with an experienced data protection on your cookie policy can help achieve this. 

Your Cookie Policy May Not Be Compliant 

Using a generic template cookie policy carries significant risks of non-compliance with the PECR, particularly by failing to reflect a business’s specific cookie practices accurately. This lack of specificity can result in inadequate disclosure of cookie use and purposes, meaning the policy will be non-compliant with mandatory legal PECR requirements. 

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The consequences of non-compliance can be severe from a PECR compliance perspective. Data protection regulators, such as the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), are increasingly focused on enforcing PECR regulations, and businesses found to be non-compliant face the possibility of enforcement action. This may include investigations, fines, and other regulatory sanctions. Given the increased regulatory scrutiny on cookie compliance issues, drafting a compliant and tailored cookie policy is vital. 

When a business downloads a template cookie policy, it is crucial to understand that this is just the starting point. Such policies should undergo thorough review and customisation to ensure they are specific to the business and meet regulatory requirements. This includes drafting details regarding the types of cookies used, their purposes, and the expiry period. Consulting with a data privacy lawyer can help your business ensure your cookie policy is accurate and compliant. 

You May Lose User Trust and Confidence 

Generic cookie policies pose a high risk of failing to address how cookies are used on users’ devices. This lack of information can lead to misunderstanding and user questions regarding cookie usage’s exact purposes and implications. Without clear and transparent information, users may feel unclear about how cookies are used or how their data is being collected and processed.

For instance, they could worry about being tracked for behavioural advertising purposes. This can result in distrust toward a company’s website or service, potentially leading to negative perceptions and a lack of user trust. It could also lead to loss of business, for instance, if a user decides not to sign up for a platform because they are concerned about vague information about cookie use.

Therefore, a tailored and comprehensive cookie policy is essential to mitigate these risks, ensure transparency, and maintain trust between businesses and their users.

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Key Takeaways

Although seemingly a quick and cost-effective solution, a generic template cookie policy presents significant business risks. These risks stem from the limitations of generic policies in adequately addressing the complex legal landscape surrounding cookies, leaving businesses vulnerable to non-compliance and potential enforcement actions. Generic policies may be outdated, inaccurate, and failing to reflect the latest legal and regulatory developments. Users may feel uncertain about the use of cookies if a cookie policy is vague or generic, leading to potential loss of business. 

Non-compliance with PECR can lead to severe consequences, including investigations, fines, and other regulatory sanctions. To mitigate these risks, companies must prioritise drafting tailored and comprehensive cookie policies, ensuring alignment with current legal requirements and building transparency and trust with their users. 

LegalVision’s experienced data, privacy, and IT lawyers can assist you as part of our LegalVision membership if you need support with a cookie policy. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0808 196 8584 or visit our membership page.

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Sej Lamba

Sej Lamba

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