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With the advent of ad blockers, it seemed like we were just on the cusp of distraction-free web browsing—and then data privacy regulations had to come along. Now, nearly every website has to bombard you with cookie popups and banners before you can get to the content you actually wanted to view. 

Businesses might wonder if this intrusion into the browsing experience is really necessary. The short answer? Yes.  

But cookie notices don’t have to make for a poor browsing experience—in fact, they can actually increase user experience and trust. We’ll dive into the what and why behind cookie notices in this blog, as well as how using a cookie notice can ensure you stay compliant with the law and respect consumer rights. 

What Is a Cookie Notice?

A cookie notice is an essential tool in maintaining compliance by informing site visitors about the usage and storage of cookies on their devices. Cookies are text files created by a website that store information about the visit to make the online experience easier; for instance, cookies keep you signed in on your device, maintain your site preferences, and provide locally relevant content to enhance the user experience.  

Why Do You Need a Cookie Notice?

Because of data protection regulations such as the GDPR, CCPA, and others, having a comprehensive and clear cookie notice is crucial. Through cookie compliance, organizations can adhere to essential privacy regulations while fostering trust with their users by demonstrating transparency and adherence to established data privacy practices.  

Providing a cookie notice falls under the overall umbrella of cookie consent management. Cookie consent management solutions help businesses secure, record, and act on user consent. Often, they facilitate the provision of a cookie notice, but the specifics must be filled in by the business since every website uses different cookies in different ways. The notice might explain to a first-time visitor that the website uses cookies to enhance site experience, personalize product recommendations, remember shopping cart items and user preferences, or other features. 

Depending on the governing regulation, a cookie consent notice may also provide options for users to accept all cookies, reject non-essential cookies, deny all cookies, or customize their preferences. Frequently, cookie notices allow users to select a “Learn More” option to break down the website’s cookie policy, including the cookie types, functions, and duration. You can check out examples of the various cookie banners by regulation in Cookie Banner Examples for the GDPR, CPRA, and More. 

Cookie Notice Requirements

GDPR Cookie Consent  

The GDPR is a comprehensive law designed to protect EU residents’ privacy and personal data, and website owners must comply with GDPR cookie consent requirements GDPR if they wish to process EU citizens' data. 

Under the GDPR, cookies that store or access personal information on a user’s device are considered forms of data processing, meaning that businesses must obtain explicit and informed consent from users before placing non-essential cookies on their devices. 

Specifically, GDPR requirements for cookie compliance include the following:  

  • Prior and explicit consent must be collected before cookie activation other than necessary cookies.  
  • Granular consents are necessary, meaning users must have the option to activate some cookies over others without being forced to consent to all.  
  • User consent must be freely given.  
  • User consent can be freely withdrawn.  
  • User consent must be renewed yearly.  
  • User consent must be stored as legal documentation.  

CCPA Cookie Consent  

Businesses with an online presence must stay informed and updated about the CCPA (sometimes referred to by its amendment, the California Privacy Rights Act, or CPRA), which significantly protects a Californian’s privacy rights.  

CCPA cookie consent regulations require businesses to inform consumers about the use of cookies and other tracking technologies on their websites if these technologies collect personal information. The CCPA grants consumers some control over the personal information that businesses hold while imposing obligations on businesses. 

However, consent is not required to use cookies under the CCPA. Users can opt out of cookies if the cookies are related to the sale or sharing of a user's personal information with other businesses. A CCPA cookies banner gives users notice about cookies and must contain a link to the business’s privacy policy but does not require opt-in consent like a GDPR cookie banner. This banner only informs users that your website uses cookies—although businesses that wish to adhere to a higher standard may ask users to opt into cookies rather than use them by default. 

Specific CCPA cookie requirements include:  

  • Businesses must tell consumers they are using cookies but do not need to provide options to customize cookies and or secure opt-in consent prior to using cookies. 
  • Businesses must give consumers the ability to opt out of the sale or sharing of personal information by clicking a “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link—functionally, that means blocking the cookies that collect personal information from firing.  
  • If they collect certain categories of personal information that fall under the CCPA’s definition of “sensitive” personal information, then businesses must provide a means for users to ask for the limitation of the use and disclosure of their sensitive personal information. This means that sensitive personal information can only be used for the requested products and services. Often, businesses offer this capability via a link like the “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link. 

Businesses must implement a comprehensive CCPA cookie policy that clearly outlines how their website collects, stores, and uses personal information so users can understand what information they collect and make informed decisions based on their personal preferences. Businesses must also explain clearly what purpose collected cookies serve so users can feel comfortable and confident during their site visit. These steps ensure transparency between the business and the consumer for a satisfying online experience.  

Cookie Plugins for WordPress  

Some businesses running their websites on WordPress might be interested in investigating cookie plugins to make compliance simpler. Plugins can allow users to efficiently customize their cookie consent banner through an easy-to-use interface for managing user preferences regarding cookies. 

However, businesses need to exercise caution when using WordPress cookie consent plugins. Often, they: 

  • Cannot support websites with anything except basic personal information processing technologies. 
  • Have no support for other tracking technologies except for cookies. 
  • Still require significant manual and technical effort. 
  • Are unreliable and permit cookies to fire when they should not. 
  • Fail to meet the regulatory requirements of different jurisdictions. For example, a cookie consent plugin may not offer the customizability that the GDPR requires. 
  • Cannot easily scale. 

WordPress plugins are nice because they’re easy—but cookie consent is a tricky problem to solve. Ideally, cookie consent management should be handled through a consent management platform, or CMP. Each CMP has a different implementation process, however. Some may require editing your WordPress site’s functions.php file, for example.  

If you use Osano as your CMP on WordPress, you may edit your site’s functions.php file, or you can use a code snippets plugin like WPCode. This way, you get the ease of a WordPress cookie consent plugin with the more robust capabilities of a fully developed CMP. 

Cookie Management: Using the Right Tool 

As people are becoming more aware of the implications of sharing personal information online, incorporating cookie consent tools into your website is a legal necessity and a way to ensure that your users feel in control of their data.  

Using a cookie consent management tool, or CMP, is essential to efficient data privacy compliance. Several cookie consent tools are available for website owners to use to protect the integrity of individual users’ data, such as Osano. Websites running Osano will automatically deploy a cookie consent banner in compliance with the user’s local data privacy laws and language preferences to guarantee an optimal experience. A cookie consent management platform like Osano can streamline cookie management through automated processes to ensure compliance and avoid noncompliance penalties.  

Along with using Osano for your cookie management purposes, consider the following for effective cookie management:  

  • Be transparent and informative, providing accessible information about the types of cookies used, their purpose, and how long they are stored.  
  • Provide granular consent options to allow the user to choose which types of cookies they want to accept  
  • Offer an opt-out mechanism for users who want to withdraw their consent. 
  • Set a reasonable consent expiry and renewal duration and allow users to change their preferences. 
  • Include cookie policy updates and state the date of your latest update in your current policy.  
  • Conduct regular cookie scans and audits.  
  • Ensure that third-party vendors using cookies are compliant with relevant regulations.  
  • Ensure your cookie consent mechanism is consistent across devices like desktop, mobile, etc. 

Osano can support and/or directly enable many of the best practices described above. Schedule a demo with an Osano expert to see it in action! 

Schedule a demo of Osano today

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