Make sure your cookies don’t catch fire

A key consideration for all website owners is their cookie policy. Jane Braithwaite and Karen Heaton show what you need to know.

Your website is your online window to your private practice, and it offers a valuable way to communicate with existing and potential patients. 

Most consultants spend considerable time choosing the look and feel of their website, the content and the images that are used. Quite understandably, they want to ensure that their website is a professional reflection of who they are and the services they offer their patients. 

But when planning a website, it can be easy to overlook whether it is compliant with data protection regulations. In fact, it is often an after-thought once the site is up and running or not even considered at all. 

As we have explained in our series so far, non-compliance with data protection regulations can come with costly fines and reputational damage. Your duty as a private practice or clinic is to comply with the regulations. 

And a key consideration for all website owners is their cookie policy and ensuring your website is compliant with data protection guidelines. 

Pieces of code 

Cookies are small pieces of code stored on your device which do a number of jobs, including improving user experience and monitoring user behaviour. 

Similar technologies like pixel tags, social media plugins, MAC (media access control) addresses and device fingerprints refer to functions which operate in the same way a cookie would. It is likely you come across these multiple times while browsing websites without even realising it.  

Computer cookies are not physical objects. A cookie is a piece of information that is created when you visit a website. When you look at a website, a cookie is created by the website and sent to your computer. Your computer stores the cookie in a file located inside your web browser. 

Why, we ask? Why do we need cookies? The cookie’s role is to keep track of your visits and activity on the website you are viewing. I appreciate this sounds a tad sinister, but it isn’t always a bad thing.