Websites will have to gain ‘explicit consent' from visitors to store or access information on their computers from May 25.
A new European e-Privacy directive has been announced today and will affect any business tracking users via their cookies online. Britain's Department for Culture, Media and Sport is drawing up guidelines that will not be available until the end of May, but enforcement and penalties are not expected in the short term as businesses are given a window to fix their cookies policies.
The new law is an amendment to the EU's Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive and will require British organisations to obtain consent from visitors to their websites to store and retrieve use information from users' computers.
The Information Commissioner Christopher Graham warned British organisations running websites that they must "wake up" to the EU legislation.
“While the roll out of this new law will be a challenge, it will have positive benefits as it will give people more choice and control over what information businesses and other organisations can store on and access from consumers' own computers," Graham said.
“We are proactively working with the government, businesses and the public sector to find a workable solution.
"So we are clear that these changes must not have a detrimental impact on consumers nor cause an unnecessary burden on UK businesses."
He said an option was to allow users to consent through browser settings.
“Once the new regulations are published there will be a major job of education and guidance to be undertaken," he said. "In the meantime, both the business community and public sector organisations need to start thinking clearly about how they will meet the requirements of the new directive.”
The Information Commissioner's Office will be responsible for regulation, while the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will lead on the implementation on the new measures in Britain.
“Revisions to the e-Privacy directive will provide consumers with more choice and control over their internet experience," said Minister for culture, communications and the creative industries, Ed Vaizey. "But at the same time we need to make sure these changes do not make using the internet more difficult.