cookie policy gdpr ccpa

For many organizations in the US and abroad, the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) lay the groundwork for how data security and consumer privacy are approached.

These regulations have made big impacts in the data landscape. An important element of these legislative landmarks? The need for businesses to implement cookie banners across their website and app. But while it’s tempting to just add a cookie banner to your website and move on to your next project, do you know what the deal actually is with them – and how to make sure you’re truly compliant? 

Differences Between GDPR and CCPA: The Nutshell Version

Comparing GDPR and CCPA can be a helpful exercise in understanding data privacy issues. While the two regulations aren’t interchangeable, they both deal with similar issues and similar concerns in individual rights. Both of them create legal requirements around:

  • Transparency in businesses practices dealing with personal data 
  • Security and control over personal information for consumers
  • Defining digital identifiers (cookies) as personal information  

One of the big points of departure between GDPR and CCPA is the issue of user consent. Consent and data are approached from two different angles between GDPR and CCPA. GDPR centers on the user, requiring prior consent for collecting cookies. CCPA allows businesses the ability to collect data before getting consent as long as users have the ability to opt-out of collection.

Another significant difference between GDPR and CCPA is scope. While both have international reach, despite the fact they pertain to residents of specific territories, compliance mandates differ. Under GDPR, any website, organization, or business has to comply with the regulation if it’s processing the personal data of EU residents. (Even if they aren’t actually located in the EU.)

On the other hand, the CCPA requires companies or for-profit businesses or organizations have to comply – and only if they meet the following criteria:

  • Has a gross revenue of more than $25 million
  • Buys, receives, sells, or shares personal information of more than 50,000 consumers, households, or devices each year for commercial purposes
  • Derives 50% or more of annual revenues from selling consumers’ personal information.

Meet Your GDPR Cookie Banner Compliance Requirements

GDPR compliance. We’ve been talking with that for a little bit, haven’t we? Seeing that GDPR has been in effect since May 25, 2018, you may have already grappled with cookie banners and consent.  

A key tenant – perhaps even THE key tenant – of GDPR requirements is that EU residents have the right to be informed when a business or organization collects their personal data. And it’s not just that they’re collecting the data – businesses and organizations have to tell people why they’re collecting it, how long they’re keeping it, and who they’re sharing it with. If an individual doesn’t want their data used in that manner, they have the right to object.

But how does this actually play out on websites? Websites and apps that are used by visitors from the EU must implement a consent banner that complies with GDPR and it has to have several pieces in place. 

Opt-in Cookie Consent

When you set up your cookie banner, the safest way to approach cookie consent is to take an opt-in approach. The opt-in approach means that website visitors have to actively give you permission to drop cookies. (At least those that aren’t essential for site functions.)  

How do you get that consent? By an opt-in button. But remember, your text has to be crystal clear in communicating that the user is agreeing to cookie deployment. 

More on Cookie Deployment

Let’s expand on cookie deployment just a little bit. According to GDPR, your website needs to be sufficiently detailed so that visitors are able to give informed consent about accepting cookies. A key piece of this information is the whats and whys of your cookies. What kinds of cookies are you using? Why do you want the data and how are you going to use it? 

Third-Party Data Sharing

When we talk about how we’re using visitors’ data, one topic that comes up time and again is sharing with third-party vendors. Third-party vendors provide businesses with valuable services, but they also pose a security risk. For transparency, you need to inform users who else has access to their data. 

Link to the Website’s Cookie Policy. 

You’ve got a cookie policy. (Right?) Don’t be shy about sharing it with your website visitors – it’s part of your compliance journey. 

The most straightforward way to get people to your policy is by adding a link to your website’s cookie policy in your cookie banner. Your cookie policy should cover the details of how cookies are used on your site and include an exhaustive list of all the cookies you’ve put into place. 

Win Brownie (Err…, Cookie) Points

You don’t have to do this, but your visitors will appreciate it if you add a link to your cookie settings within the cookie banner. Yes, it’s not strictly required by GDPR as long as visitors have the choice to refuse all cookies. Website users, unsurprisingly, appreciate the option to control their user experience and their data. 

Meet Your CCPA Cookie Banner Compliance Requirements

The CCPA went into effect on January 1, 2020, but only recently became enforceable as of July 1. Similar to GDPR, CCPA gives California residents the right to be informed when a business or organization collects their personal data. In fact, California residents even have the right to bring suit against businesses in certain cases. 

Under CCPA, website owners have to inform users about what information they’re collecting, how they’re processing it, and with whom they share it. That part is very similar to GDPR. 

However, there is a big difference between GDPR and CCPA: CCPA takes an opt-out rather than an opt-in approach. While CCPA doesn’t require a banner to facilitate the opt-out, it’s currently the best practice to make sure you’re giving visitors the ability to opt-out at the time of – or before – collection.  

The CCPA does restrict one aspect of data collection for websites: the sale of personal data for visitors under 16 years old. These underage visitors are required to opt-in rather than opt-out. So if you’re not sure you don’t have visitors under the age of 16, it’s better to use the opt-in approach. 

With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the Ingredients for a CCPA-compliant cookie banner. You should include the following in your cookie banner. 

Information About Cookie Use

CCPA requires websites to provide users with the details about why they’re collecting and using cookies and if they’re going to be sharing or selling that information to third parties. 

A Button to Accept Cookies

As noted above, there’s not an opt-in requirement under CCPA. However, you can include a link that allows users to accept cookies. (But you can fire cookies before the website user accepts them as long as you give them the information about data you’re collecting at the point of collection.) 

As in the GDPR version of a cookie banner, you have the option of including a link to a cookie setting page that allows users to opt-in or out. No, it’s not necessary, but yes, it’s a good step towards transparency and user experience. 

Do Not Sell Button

Under CCPA, you’ve got to give your users the ability to opt-out not just of data collection, but of the sale of personal information. According to CCPA, selling includes the following: “selling, renting, releasing, disclosing, disseminating, making available, transferring, or otherwise communicating orally, in writing, or by electronic or other means, a consumer’s personal information by the business to another business or a third party for monetary or other valuable consideration.” With such a broad definition, it’s important for companies to understand the data that is collected and shared and specifically what the third party is doing with the information to determine if data is classified as a sale under CCPA 

(One issue to be mindful of is how you or your partners are using ad tech. While not all ad tech is considered selling, some uses may fall into the category of sales.) 

To uphold CCPA requirements, you need to provide the option of opting out. CCPA is specific on how you should do this: include a link or button to an opt-out form on your website’s home page. 

Your “Do Not Sell” needs to include some specific information, as well. It needs to have:

  • A link to your website’s privacy policy
  • A button that allows them to opt-out of personalized ads

Let us reiterate: Your “Do Not Sell” button isn’t the same thing as or interchangeable with a cookie banner. Don’t treat it as such. It’s a separate function. However, it’s smart to use it alongside your cookie banner to help your website use cookies to process data in a CCPA-compliant manner.

Tying it all together

Yes, both GDPR and CCPA have a lot of moving pieces that you have to address in your cookie banners. And yes, it’s tempting just to find a customizable cookie banner online and wash your hands of it. 

But we don’t recommend this approach. Cookie banners don’t exist in a vacuum. Cookies change and have to be updated. It should all be part of your larger privacy strategy.  

If this feels overwhelming, we hear you. That’s why we work closely with clients to build a manageable strategy for long-term business goals. Ready to take the next step? Give us a shout. We’d love to chat.

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