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So, as of May 26 2012, European Law now dictates that websites in the UK should make it very abundant to users that if they're using cookies in any shape or form on said websites, to notify their users that they're doing so.
The common pattern so far has to been to display an in-page popup/popin, explaining the changes. What happens when you accept this great news, and how do the websites remember your choice? That'd be a cookie, then.
Cookies are not the devil and can contain all sorts of trivial and sometimes sensitive information, but they are more commonly used for good than bad.
I'm not going to go into detail, but for example, if you show an interest while online shopping on popular websites for "televisions", that site might then present you with suggestions of popular televisions on subsequent visits.
Third party advertising companies might use them to tell their servers that you have already seen one ad they have, and to display another next time they show you one of their ads.
THE most laughable though, when it comes to comments I have seen on social media websites on this matter are along the lines of "This is a good move, I hate being spied on". The majority of those people making the comments have more than likely checked the "remember me" option on those websites, so they don't have to log in each time they come back to their favoured site. I wonder how they're remembered. Oh yeah, that'd be a cookie, then.
It's not clear to me as a citizen of the UK (and European Union) when I might be in breach of this law, either. For example - let's say I own a business based in the UK and I have a website. What happens if the website I have is registered to a domain name service outside of Europe and the website is also hosted on server(s) outside of Europe? What happens if the domain name service I use is IN Europe, but the site's content is hosted outside of Europe?
Also, many website owners may not know they are in breach of this law, whether or not they're explicitly setting any cookies themselves. Will sites using google analytics need to declare that they're using cookies? Who knows.
Will this drive companies in the UK from having their content hosted on servers in the UK? Again, who knows. Can't be a good thing shoving these prompts down peoples' faces, though - and those already paranoid about blowing up their computer because they're using the Internet aren't going to be reassured by any of this. Most decent browsers allow the user to control what cookies are set, leave that choice in their hands.
Anyway, this trumps all of what I've written so far - the committee that decided this was a good idea fail to comply with their own law. Awesome.
Can't be bothered to go any further back than that. Oh and if you're wondering what cookies get set on those pages on accepting cookies, the name is ckns_policy if you want to remove it.
Punishment for websites in the UK that fail to comply with this law carries a maximum fine of 500,000.00 GBP = 781,966.28 USD (as of writing). Nice.