You’ve likely seen cookie consent notices pop up on websites before. But what are these cookies policies all about?
As an online business owner, you may be wondering – do I really need one of those on my website?
In this in-depth guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to understand website cookie policies, including:
- Why you need one and what can happen if you don’t
- Exactly what to include (with template and examples)
- Where to place your cookie notice on your site
- Options for creating and managing your policy
- FAQs on website cookie compliance
So if you want to learn all about cookies and how to create a compliant policy for your website, keep reading!
Cookies are small data files stored on a user‘s browser when they visit a website. Their purpose is to remember useful information that makes sites work better.
For example, cookies can:
- Keep you logged into a site
- Remember your site preferences like theme or location
- Track your browsing behavior to serve targeted ads
- Collect analytics on how visitors use a site
But cookies can also raise privacy concerns by gathering data without user knowledge or consent.
That‘s why regulations like GDPR and CCPA now require websites to disclose cookie usage.
- What cookies a site uses
- Why they use them
- How visitor data gets collected and processed
- How long each cookie lasts
- How users can control cookie settings
This transparency allows visitors to make informed decisions on the cookies stored on their devices.
1. Compliance with Privacy Laws
The EU‘s GDPR affects all sites processing data of EU citizens. Fines for non-compliance can be massive – up to €20 million or 4% of global revenue.
CCPA similarly requires transparency for California residents. Fines start at $2,500 per violation.
2. User Transparency
Your policy displays transparency around your cookie and data practices. This builds user trust and shows you have nothing to hide.
3. User Cookie Consent
Certain cookies require opt-in consent before being set. Your policy clearly explains your practices and gains permission.
4. Legal Protection
No policy means you risk privacy lawsuits or regulatory fines. A policy minimizes this legal risk.
- Substantial fines from regulators for non-compliance
- Lawsuits from users over privacy violations
- Loss of user trust and reputation damage
- Blocking of website access in certain regions
It‘s simply not worth the legal and PR risk. All sites using cookies should have a policy.
Cookie policies must provide certain details to comply with regulations like GDPR and CCPA.
Here are the key sections to cover:
Types of Cookies Used
List and define the various types of cookies your site or third-party services set. Common ones include:
Essential Cookies: Critical for site functionality. Examples are shopping cart and login cookies.
Functionality Cookies: Enhance site usage, like remembering settings.
Performance & Analytics Cookies: Collect data on how visitors use the site. Google Analytics is a common example.
Targeting/Advertising Cookies: Create targeted ads based on user browsing habits. Social media cookies also fall under this category.
Purposes of Cookies
Explain the specific purpose of each cookie or category of cookies used on your site. This provides full transparency into why cookie data gets collected and processed.
State how long each type of cookie remains on a user‘s device.
Session Cookies last until the browser window is closed.
Persistent Cookies can survive for set periods of time ranging from hours to years. Document your specific cookie durations.
Disclose all third-party companies setting cookies on your domain. Also explain their cookie practices.
User Cookie Controls
Detail options users have to manage or delete cookies. Common controls include:
- Browser settings like enabling Do Not Track or deleting cookies
- Your website‘s cookie management tools or preferences dashboard
- Third-party opt-out tools like Google Analytics opt-out browser add-on
Specifically call out how users can opt-in or opt-out of non-essential cookie usage.
Provide your business contact details so users can reach out with cookie-related questions.
Cookie Banner or Popup
A banner appears on your site informing users that cookies are used and linking to the full policy. Visitors can consent to non-essential cookies directly on the banner.
Cookie banners are required in regions like EU. Display them prominently near page headers.
Add your policy to your main website navigation menu or sidebar. It will be viewable on all site pages for easy access.
Regardless of placement, your policy should be easy to find and never hidden multiple clicks deep. Prominent placement shows compliance.
This covers all the key details you need in an easy-to-read format. Feel free to modify or add additional details specific to your site.
Here are two great real-world examples of properly formatted cookie policies:
Google separates their necessary, preference, performance/analytics, and advertising cookies into tables. They also list specific cookie names and expiration times:
YouTube‘s policy is embedded right on their privacy page and uses clear headers for each cookie type. They also detail cookie management controls:
- CookiePro – Customizable policy builder with consent banners
- CookieBot – Scans your site and builds a GDPR-ready policy
- Iubenda – Creates and updates cookie policies to remain compliant
Just answer a few questions about your website and these tools will output a custom policy tailored to your specific needs. Be sure to review for accuracy.
FAQs About Website Cookie Policies
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about cookie policies:
Not having one violates regulations like GDPR and CCPA, risking major fines. It also loses user trust through lack of transparency.
Do I need a cookie banner or popup?
Banners that gain consent are required in some regions before setting non-essential cookies. Check legal requirements based on your users‘ locations.
Even if you don‘t manage cookies directly, third parties like analytics tools, social plugins, advertising networks, or even your CMS system may use them.
Failing to disclose this opens you up to regulatory fines, lawsuits, and loss of user trust through lack of transparency. It simply isn‘t worth the risk.
The good news is cookie policies are easier to implement than you think. User-friendly policy generators make it simple to create customized policies that comply with all requirements.