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Productivity and micro business

The Productivity Insights Network, funded by the Economic and Social research Council, have recently published a follow-up evaluation of a series of programmes designed to boost productivity (see _January19.pdf ). The initiatives under the microscope were all originally part of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills Future Programme. Looking at the report from […]

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Can policy be inspired by practice?

At the beginning of this week (19 November 2018) I had the great good fortune to be invited to a workshop on ‘Driving improvements in business performance’ for Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) personnel organised by the Work Foundation ( My challenge was to decide what to say in five minutes on […]

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Business productivity review

As part of their concern with the UK’s productivity performance, the Government has launched a consultation. You can have your say at . We’ve already posted some thoughts under the business support and advice services heading. Do you agree with our points about sole traders and micro businesses?

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Business startup comes to Chesterfield

Here’s a date for your diary: Saturday 24 February. The micro biz champion Tony Robinson OBE will be in Chesterfield to tell us what it’s really like to work for yourself. Marketers, bookkeepers, social media experts and lost of others will be on hand (along with folks who’ve recently started their own business) to offer […]

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Archive for May, 2011

Confused by the new cookie regulations?

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Very few people have heard about the new cookie regulations. “Cookies”, which are small pieces of data stored by web browsers at the request of the servers they visit, are a technical tool which most users of the web rarely notice. Those who’ve been using the web a long time may remember the old “This site is attempting to set a cookie” messages that browsers used to present – for many years, though, they’ve been considered ubiquitous and web developers almost forgot they were using them.

Time to think again, whoever you are: these new regulations affect anyone with a website, whether it’s a personal website or the web property of a FTSE 100 company. Essentially, the new rules state that before a web server can send a cookie to a web browser, it must gain the consent of the user – the ICO has a page available which tries to go through this (the “PECR rules”) in more detail. But let’s try to break this down for you:

  1. if you use any third-party system on your website, such as Google Analytics to track visitors or any kind of advertising platform, it is very likely to fall foul of the new rules. The ICO themselves have a new “opt in” system explained here for their website for which every user has to tick a checkbox before they turn on such systems (they use Google Analytics specifically, but there is nothing specific about that system which is problematic, this is due to the new rules which cover every such system).
  2. if your website sends cookies by default then you are breaking the new rules unless that cookie is somehow “essential”. At the moment, it is difficult to see any good technical test that defines the difference between an essential and non-essential cookie.

Is your website using cookies? For most people, this is really hard to tell.

Not to worry – we’ve tried to simplify this for you, by hosting a Cookie Checker. This simple tool can get you started on the road to compliance, a journey that the Government is giving everyone roughly a year to make. After that year passes, they will start enforcing the rules which may result in prosecutions.

However, this tool is not perfect – far from it. These new rules are poorly worded, and if you use our tool you’ll see even the ICO’s own website fails! (We have written to them to let them know about this problem). Technically, there is no automatic tool which can give you a 100% answer; this is actually impossible. It’s also quite difficult to check through an entire web property and ensure the whole property is compliant with the rules, and the rules themselves are ambiguous. Additionally, even if you have a friendly web developer who manages your site, it’s quite likely that they wouldn’t even realise/know the site was using cookies, let alone know how to get it to conform to the new rules!

If you have an internal IT resource, or have someone who manages your websites for them, ask them these key questions:

  1. Are you aware of the new rules (the “PECR rules”) which require end-user opt-in before sending browsers cookies?
  2. Does our website currently rely on cookies, or server-side sessions, in order to implement functionality?
  3. Does our website make any use of Flash cookies, HTML 5 local storage, or other end-user stored data?
  4. If so, what assessment has been made of which functionality might be considered “essential”?

If you’d like any further advice on this topic, please feel free to get in touch with us. This is a really tough topic, and although the subject is quite technical it’s already clear that all business owners operating on the internet need to be aware of these new rules.

Don’t miss out!

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

We still have a limited number of places left for our Spring / Summer programme of workshops in May and June of 2011. Book now to guarantee a place. For more information or to book a place on a workshop visit: