A new law has been passed through the EU parliament which tightens the restrictions on how cookies can be used within website based in Europe.

The new law will have far-reaching implications for all publishers of online content in Europe, as it essentially means that unless you agree to specific terms no website will be able to remember who users are – something which will be a threat to the online advertising industry and the sites that survive on this revenue.

According to Out-Law.com, the law is set to come into force over the next 18 months and will mean that cookies will no longer be stored on user's computers unless the user "has given his or her consent, having been provided with clear and comprehensive information."

Cookie cutter

While the law is meant to shield users from unwanted targeted advertising – we are looking at you here Phorm – the requirement will be that all 'tracking cookies' will be subject for approval.

This means that the entire way websites work in Europe will have to be reassessed. Currently, when you log on to a website, cookies will be stored on your computer to remember your preferences, account details and things that most of us take for granted.

Like taking a sledgehammer to a walnut, if the law is passed in the UK – and across the rest of the 27 member states – then all of this usually harmless but necessary behind-the-scenes action will be queried every time you visit a new European-based site.

Clear and precise information

Out-Law.com, who uncovered the legislation within an 18-page press release which also discussed 'fishing quotas, train driving licences and a maritime treaty with China', has republished the text which states that cookies "should be allowed on condition that users are provided with clear and precise information in accordance with Directive 95/46/EC about the purposes of cookies or similar devices so as to ensure that users are made aware of information being placed on the terminal equipment they are using." Yes, it's that confusing.

This isn't the first time the EU has tried to pass such a directive. In 2003 another 'cookie law' was passed with regards to unsolicited material, which meant that an opt-out option had to be given on all material that was not requested by the user. This was meant to curb the flow of pop-ups and spam on websites and through email.