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Businesses Face Hefty Fines For Failing to Meet New Website Privacy Rules

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A specialist in IT law has warned businesses across the region that they could face enforcement action from the Information Commissioner’s office (including fines of up to £500,000 for serious breaches) if their websites use cookies to record users’ data and preferences without their consent.

hlw Keeble Hawson LogoThe warning from Rebecca Kelly of hlw Keeble Hawson Solicitors - one of the region's biggest practices with offices in Sheffield, Leeds and Doncaster – follows a change in the UKs privacy and electronic communications law last year. A 12 month period of grace, put in place to enable companies to alter their websites, expired on 26 May 2012.

Ms Kelly explained: “The revision means that website ‘cookies’ can no longer be used to collect and store information about visitors to a website unless those users have consented to this. Users must be provided with clear and comprehensive information about the cookies that are used, what information those cookies collect and how that information will be used - for instance whether the information collected will be used for marketing or analytical purposes.

“Under the new rules a website owner is also responsible for any data collection using cookies carried out by advertisers on their site unless their privacy policy clearly excludes them from this liability. Enforcement action could include fines of up to £500,000 for the most serious breaches, so businesses should check if their website complies as a matter of urgency.”

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