Frequently Asked Questions and Answers from Termly’s Legal Experts

Do I need a cookie policy on my website?

Yes, you need a cookie policy if your website uses internet cookies to collect information from visitors.

Laws such as the ePrivacy Directive and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) require websites to detail their use of cookies to users.

To comply with these laws, websites need to provide users with the following information:

This can be done by dedicating a section of your privacy policy to cookies, or by having a separate cookie policy.

Long Answer

Internet cookies help websites function properly, but they also collect personal data from users and are heavily regulated by data privacy legislation.

If your website uses internet cookies, you should post a cookie policy. 

Using one helps ensure you comply with applicable laws, and being honest with your users builds and maintains trust, leading to better customer retention.

Below, I’ll explain everything you need to know about cookie policies, the laws that impact them, and how to easily create one for your website.

Cookie policies inform your website visitors that your site uses internet cookies and lists the specific types of cookies it serves.

It also explains the purpose of each cookie and describes the rights and controls your users have over which cookies get placed on their browsers or not.

Different data privacy laws give some users rights over how you can and can’t collect their information, including through cookies.

If you collect personal data, at least one of these laws likely applies to your business. 

Some data privacy legislation also allows individuals to opt out of things like targeted advertising or the sale of their data.

So, if you use information gathered from cookies for either of those purposes, you must provide an opt-out mechanism on your site so they can follow through on their privacy rights.

Beyond legal compliance, your consumers expect to find a cookie policy on your website so they can control which ones get placed on their browsers.

Using one shows them you’re transparent and honest about your data collection practices, which helps build trust between your business and consumers.

If you don’t clearly communicate the details of your cookie use, you might lose customers to competitors with more visible data processing activities.

Data privacy laws provide guidance and rules for how you can and cannot use internet cookies, and posting a cookie policy helps you meet some of these legal obligations.

For example, a cookie policy helps you provide consumers with their right to access the information you collect about them, a common right granted by most data privacy laws.

However, technically, no law explicitly states that you must use a cookie policy in the same way that privacy notices and policies are required.

That said, all of the following laws have requirements that impact how you use cookies, which, in turn, affects your cookie policy:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  •  California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA)
  •  Colorado Privacy Act (CPA)
  •  Connecticut Personal Data Privacy Act (CTDPA)
  •  Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act (VCDPA)
  •  Personal Information and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
  •  Quebec’s Law 25

The above list is not exhaustive. Make sure you do your research to ensure you know every law that applies to your business.

Keeping your cookie and privacy policies separate is a business best practice.

Data privacy laws typically outline precise requirements regarding what goes into your privacy policy, sometimes called a privacy notice.

So, you shouldn’t combine these two website policies for legal compliance reasons.  

For example, if obtaining consent is your legal basis, you might accidentally violate Article 7, Conditions for Consent, under the GDPR, as the consent requests must be “clearly distinguishable.”

Instead of combining them, link to your cookie policy in a distinct clause within your privacy policy, and vice-versa.

It’s easier to prove compliance if you link both to your website.

Your site most likely needs a cookie policy, even if you’re in the USA.

As previously mentioned, laws like the GDPR have an extraterritorial scope and may impact your business, especially if you sell products or services to any part of Europe.

Additionally, you might be subject to US state laws, such as the CCPA, VCDPA, CTDPA, or CPA.

These state laws give consumers the right to know if your site uses any cookies that track their data and outline specific opt-out requirements.

There’s also talk of a potential Federal data privacy law, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act (ADPPA).

If the ADPPA becomes law, it would give natural persons residing in America the right to know what data you collect from them and to opt out of targeted advertising and the sale of their data.

In other words, it might directly impact the contents of your cookie policy.

Adding a cookie policy to your website is very easy, and there are several different solutions you might try.

Let’s cover the three most common methods in this next section.

The easiest and quickest way to make a cookie policy for your website is to use a managed solution, like Termly’s Cookie Policy Generator.

First, you run your website URL through our scanner, which finds and categorizes every cookie on each page of your site.

It organizes them into six categories:

  1. Essential
  2.  Performance and functionality
  3.  Analytics and customization
  4.  Advertising
  5.  Social networking
  6.  Unclassified

If you’re under the GDPR, our platform automatically blocks third-party cookies and scripts for you until the user consents.

Then, our generator customizes a cookie policy based on the results of your website scan.

You should review the results, autoblock any cookies you desire, and make additional edits as needed.

You can also use Termly’s free cookie policy template, which requires more hands-on work but is still accessible and efficient.

You’ll have to determine what cookies your website uses and categorize them yourself, but our template provides the formatting and additional necessary content.

Just choose which format you prefer, Google Doc, Word Doc, PDF, or HTML, and fill in the blank sections with the appropriate information about your site.

Related Questions

Having a separate cookie policy may help you comply with privacy laws.

You can easily create a cookie policy that addresses all the legally required cookie information by using a cookie policy template.

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Trusted by thousands of companies worldwide, Termly’s intuitive software generates legal policies and handles consent management for any business in minutes.

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Jona, Senior Product Manager @ Termly

Termly allows our users to focus more on their business instead of spending countless hours figuring out data privacy compliance. - Jona, Senior Product Manager @ Termly