BT’s approach to EU cookie compliance

BT's attempt at EU Cookie ComplianceWhile checking my online bill I found that is my first site that has a nice solution to the EU cookie law.  This may not be completely compliant since it asks for permission after setting cookies but it does give all the options and information that you need to set these cookies.

My issue with cookie compliance is, “between asking a question and getting the answer – what do you do?”, “What if the question is never answered?”

BT EU Cookie Compliance messageThe  particularly clever thing about the BT approach is that it uses human nature in a sensible way. Other approaches ask the user ‘please let us set cookies’. Like most of us we ignore questions on websites so the user takes no action –  so this is not ‘yes’. But, it is not ‘no’ either.

The compliance approach is that until you answer a question, they will assume that you will say ‘yes’ – and you can always clarify this with ‘no’ later. Strictly speaking this is an opt-out rather than an opt-in to cookies but it does seem to be a more sensible way of doing things.

There are two slightly sneaky things in my opinion:

  • You only see this message once – after that it is relegated to the bottom of the pages so if you miss it the first time then you have missed it for ever. Perhaps re showing it after you have visited the page a certain number of times might be more ethical.
  • BT have also only allowed you to opt out of certain combinations – ie you can’t just opt out of the tracking cookies yet – you can only opt out of these if you also opt out of security and other really handy things you would like to have.

The cookie settings on this website are set to ‘allow all cookies’ to give you the very best experience. If you continue without changing these settings, you consent to this – but if you want, you can change your settings at any time at the bottom of this page.

I have to give BT huge credit for the way that they have explained the different types of cookies – I’d suggest reading their explanation of the different types of cookies and what BT use them for on this help page.

The cookies used on are based on the International Chamber of Commerce guide for cookie categories:

  • Strictly necessary
  • Performance
  • Functionality
  • Targeting

While this approach may not be fully compliant (this is not legal advice and just my opinion). I do prefer it to all of the other options I have seen in terms of user experience and technical ability to implement it.

Like all technical implementations it may have some problems, like it depends on a cookie in order to work. I’m pretty confident that this one would qualify as strictly necessary above. And if you have cookies turned off it may ask you every time since it can’t put the cookie on your browser to tell it not to ask.

So watch this space and the attempts of other UK companies to comply as the May 26, 2012 deadline approaches. There are lots of clever people trying to solve this problem so hopefully we will have a solution in time (or soon after).

your ‘Peoples Geek’