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CCPA and Cookie Consent

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) went into effect in January 2020, requiring most businesses and organizations with websites to add language to their sites explaining their cookie policy, and to give users the option to reject some or all cookies. Some businesses were well prepared for that rule, because they were already compliant with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) cookie rules. But for small and medium businesses, the CCPA and cookie consent created some confusion and concern.

In this post, we’ll explain what cookies are and how businesses use them. We’ll also cover GDPR and CCPA cookie consent, and which businesses are required to comply with those requirements, as well as best practices for ensuring compliance.

What is a website cookie?
A cookie is a small block of data that a website or webpage sends to a device. The device stores the cookie and transmits the data back to the source, which authenticates the device and user. When you visit a website that requires you to log in, and the site “remembers” your username and password, that’s because you’ve previously exchanged a cookie with that site.

Cookies can create a better experience for website visitors, particularly on e-commerce sites, where — without cookies — shopping carts could not retain items as shoppers navigate from page to page. But cookies also raise concerns about privacy.

What types of cookies do websites use?
A variety of cookies may exist on websites, and they generally fall into two categories: first-party and third-party.

First-party cookies are created and/or placed on a website by the website’s administrators. These cookies support essential functions (like the shopping cart example we mentioned). They may also collect information about site visitors, such as page views, session duration, and time on site.

Third-party cookies may appear across several websites. These cookies track user behavior across multiple domains and platforms. If you’ve ever visited a website to view a product, then seen an ad for that product when you visited an unrelated site, a third-party cookie has likely tracked your activity online.

An explanation of how first- and third-party cookies differ. Source

What is a cookie policy?
A cookie policy is the language that appears on your website when a visitor arrives that informs them of the types of cookies on your site and how you use the data they collect. The policy must also explain the issue of consent, and allow users to customize their cookie preferences.

This cookie consent popup (powered by Monsido’s Cookie Consent Manager) appears when visitors land on Visitors can click on “Cookie Preferences” to select which cookies to allow.

An overview of the CCPA and GDPR
The GDPR went into effect in May 2018, instituting several requirements designed to protect consumer privacy. While the GDPR originated in the EU, its regulations extend to businesses that have digital customers or website visitors in the EU, regardless of where the business is located.

Like the GDPR, the CCPA applies not just in California, but also to businesses anywhere that have customers or website visitors in California. Businesses that meet any of the following criteria are required to comply with the CCPA:

  • Have a gross annual revenue of over $25 million;
  • Buy, receive, or sell the personal information of 50,000 or more California residents, households, or devices; or
  • Derive 50% or more of their annual revenue from selling California residents’ personal information.

CCPA and GDPR requirements for cookies
Users should be presented with an action (usually a clickable button) for accepting or rejecting cookies.

CCPA and cookie consent
The CCPA allows companies to load and use cookies on their website but requires them to disclose to visitors how they’re gathering visitor data and how they use it. The consent disclosure must also explain how to opt-out of cookies and provide a method of doing so.

The CCPA does not require companies to develop a separate cookie policy, as long as they include cookie-policy language in their privacy policy.

GDPR and cookie consent
The GDPR does not allow companies to load and use cookies unless they are essential for a website’s functionality. Non-essential cookies can be used only when site visitors opt-in, and even if visitors authorize cookies, they can later retract permission, as well as request that all cookie-related data about them be erased.

Cookie consent should be changeable
This means that users who previously consented to cookies can retract their consent at any time.