It’s all about the cookies. An Important Update from Skimlinks.

As many of you are aware (particularly our European publishers), on May 26th, the EU is beginning to enforce their Privacy Directive, a.k.a. the ‘Cookie Law,’ which is designed to help users gain a better understanding into how websites use cookies to track their behavior.

In order to make sure our publishers are aware of the new law and are compliant with it, we’ve updated our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, highlighted what publishers need to do, and shared answers to the FAQs we’ve gotten on the topic:

What is a cookie?
noun; the new EU legislation applies to the 2nd definition below.
1. A delicious circle of cake, often found with chocolate chips inside.
2. “A computer cookie, also referred to as an “HTTP cookie,” is a small text file that contains a unique ID tag, placed on the user’s computer by a website. In this file, various information can be stored, from pages visited on the site, to information voluntarily given to the site. These tiny files provide practical benefits to both users and website operators, and generally make surfing the net a smoother experience than it otherwise would be.” (source: WiseGeek.com).

What is the EU Privacy Directive?
The EU Privacy Directive is a piece of privacy legislation designed to make consumers aware of how information about them is collected online. The law says that websites must get permission from visitors to store or retrieve any information on their computers or other devices. Full information can be found at the Information Commissioner’s office website here.

Why the need for a law? Are cookies scary?
Cookies are not scary, but many people are unaware of what information they are sharing on the web, and this is likely what the EU is trying to address. As a company, the bigger the role that we can play in helping educate people about how websites (particularly good ones) use cookies, the better!

Does it affect Me?
In short, yes. 92% of websites use cookies, and cookies are involved in all types of web activity including speeding up login pages and using programs like Google Analytics to understand where visitors to your website have come from. The vast majority of cookies are beneficial to users, and are often used to help provide a more personalized experience for online users. Cookies are used by all sites across the web including Google, Facebook, YouTube and more to enhance the online experience. So, as a Publisher, you need to be aware of the cookies that are on your own site and how those cookies affect your users.

What is the ICO’s stance on the directive, as it relates to UK publishers?
We’ve met with folks from the Information Commissioner’s Office (the regulatory body for data and privacy laws in the UK), to gain an understanding that the focus for UK publishers should be on “informed consent.” This means that you should take steps to let your publishers know what types of cookies you use on your site. (A handy and practical guide from the ICO can be found here).

As a Skimlinks’ publisher in Europe, how can I be sure I’m compliant?
It’s actually pretty simple. It is important that you appropriately disclose how you and your partners use cookies, and give your users the ability to opt out of being tracked, if they wish. An easy way to do this in regards to disclosing your use of Skimlinks, if you haven’t already, is to:

If I am a Skimlinks publisher based outside of Europe, what should I do?
While the EU cookie law applies to publishers with web traffic in Europe, we always think that the right thing to do is to be open and honest with your users about how you use cookies on your site. It’s also great to be transparent about how you make money, so you should proudly disclose that you use Skimlinks for your affiliate marketing. We’re such big believers in this that we put our money where our mouth is with our referral program (learn more about the Skimlinks referral program).

Do I need to get an explicit opt-in regarding cookies from each user on my site?
Based on conversations with the ICO, the recommended approach is one of informed consent rather than explicit opt-in. This means that informing your users the first time they arrive on your site that you use cookies and providing links to where they can find further information about those cookies and potentially opt-out is currently suitable. A really good video of the ICOs presentation on how to be compliant with the new laws, can be found here.

What changes is Skimlinks making?
We often talk about the importance of disclosure and transparency, so with the new EU Privacy Directive advising companies to describe how they use data collected by their service, we wanted to be open and honest about what we do with your data, and your users’ data. We have updated our Privacy Policy, describing exactly how we deal with all the data we collect in the process of offering our services. You can read the updated policy here.

What kind of cookies are involved when a publisher uses Skimlinks on their page?
If you are using Skimlinks on your site, there are various cookies that get dropped when a user clicks on a merchant link both by Skimlinks and the affiliate networks we partner with. The networks cookies are key for following a user’s click through to purchase and associating that back to you as the publisher. The Skimlinks cookie is for the optimisation of the experience across our publisher network. You can see the full list of cookies and get more information here.

How does Skimlinks use cookies on our own site? What is our plan for being compliant as we’re a publisher too?
Skimlinks uses cookies on our site to do things such as allow for quicker logins to our publisher interface and to analyse behavior on our site through programs like Google Analytics. We are approaching compliance for our own site in three phases: (1) doing an audit of all the cookies that our site uses and producing a visitor-focused cookie table, which you can see here; (2) updating our Privacy Policy to have a clear section for Visitors of our website (have a look here); and (3) having an informed consent solution implemented across our site for first time visitors. We are currently in the process of brainstorming and rolling out phase 3 for visitors to our sites.

Why is Skimlinks so open and honest about all of this stuff. Aren’t you worried about people getting scared by the word ‘cookies?’
We are big believers in being open and honest about everything we do, and think that the more we educate people, the better off they will be, the more they will understand the value cookies play, and the more they will trust Skimlinks!

What is Team Skimlinks’ favorite type of cookie (the kind you can eat)?  
We took a poll of Team Skimlinks on Yammer, and with about half of the team votes in, the survey saaaaaays… Chocolate Chip!!! We were all a bit shocked that Peanut Butter got zero votes, but we are really a Nutella first company when it comes to our cookie toppings.
To close on a serious note, we understand that laws can be complex and we are here to help. This is the start on our journey to compliance, and we want to work together with you, our publishers and merchants. We hope you’ve found this post useful, and remember that we are always here if you need further assistance.

All the best,
Team Skimlinks

Image under under Creative Commons by Flickr user Pete Prodoehl

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16 Comments to It’s all about the cookies. An Important Update from Skimlinks.

Londoner
May 4, 2012

I agree that such EU Privacy Directive must be created because our information must be protected. Since most of the sites use cookies this is an important issue. Publishers should be aware how those cookies affect their users.

[...] In It’s All About the Cookies, Part 1 we talked about what the EU Privacy Directive is and what it means for our publishers. [...]

[...] Track” option to their users, allowing them to opt-out of cookies. This comes 1 week before EU Cookie Law enforcement begins; [...]

[...] Skimlinks, we made some recommendations to all our publishers but the ICO have indicated to us that they’re not going to be prosecuting [...]

[...] Skimlinks, we made some recommendations to all our publishers but the ICO have indicated to us that they’re not going to be prosecuting [...]

[...] Privacy Directive. We’ve tried to detail exactly what it means and how to comply in our blog (Part I and Part II), and are always available at support@skimlinks.com to answer any questions. Skimlinks [...]

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