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What are Cookies, Local Storage and Session Storage from a Privacy Law Perspective?


In today's online world, keeping user data safe is super important for following web rules and making websites work better. Things like cookies, local storage, and session storage help make websites more useful and personal. But, using them means you have to be careful with privacy laws, such as GDPR compliance, CCPA compliance, and following the ePrivacy Directive.

In this article we are looking at these technologies from the point of view of data privacy.

What are Cookies and Their Types?

Cookies are small files sent by a web server to a user's device (like browsers or phones) and stored for a certain time or a browsing session. They track user activity on websites, analyze behavior, provide targeted content, ensure security, and more. Cookies vary in types such as first party, third party, essential, and non-essential, meaning they will also have different treatment regimens in terms of consent from your website users. For example, first party essential cookies that are needed for the proper functioning of your website do not require prior consent from users. 

Our two-part guide explains these differences.

Regarding data privacy, laws like the GDPR or the CCPA demand users' clear consent for cookie use. Users must choose to accept all cookies or only essential ones and any non-essential ones they agree to.

Other tracking methods include scripts (like JavaScript) from external sources. These scripts, used for things like social media buttons, ads, or embedded videos, enable additional cookies for tracking or advertising purposes.

Cookies play a critical role in web browsing, from managing session states to personalizing content, and can be categorized into session cookies, persistent cookies, and 3rd party cookies. Each type serves different functions, from maintaining login sessions to tracking user activity across multiple sites for advertising purposes. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for ensuring web compliance and respecting user privacy.

Clym’s CMP is designed in such a way that it facilitates real-time compliance through its continuous scanning of your website.  


Do You Need Consent for Using Cookies on Your Website?

The question of whether consent is required for using cookies on a website is an important one in the context of digital privacy and regulatory compliance. With the increasing focus on user privacy, laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the ePrivacy Directive have set strict guidelines for the use of cookies and similar technologies, while California’s CCPA CPRA requires opt-in consent for cookies and bears an impact on your Cookie Policy

Under the GDPR, for instance, the use of cookies that collect personal data requires explicit consent from the user. This includes third-party cookies often used for tracking, analytics, advertising, and social media integration. These cookies are not considered essential to a website's core functionalities, such as user login or shopping cart operations, and therefore, users must be given a clear choice to opt-in or opt-out of these cookies.

The ePrivacy Directive, often referred to as the "Cookie Law," complements the GDPR by requiring prior consent for the storage and access of cookies and similar technologies on a user's device. There are exceptions for cookies that are strictly necessary for the delivery of a service explicitly requested by the user, such as session cookies that maintain a user's state across pages or authentication cookies.

To comply with these regulations, websites use Cookie Consent Banners and Consent Management Platforms (CMP). A Cookie Consent Banner is a visible notification that appears on the website, informing visitors about the use of cookies and asking for their consent. It should provide options for the user to accept all cookies, reject non-essential cookies, or customize their preferences.

A Consent Management Platform (CMP), such as Clym’s CMP, is a more sophisticated tool that helps websites manage the consent they collect, ensuring that cookies are not placed on the user's device without consent and that the consent is documented and can be easily accessed and updated by the user. CMPs also help websites keep track of the varying regulations across different jurisdictions and adapt their cookie consent practices accordingly.

Implementing these tools not only helps websites comply with privacy laws but also builds trust with users by respecting their privacy choices. As privacy regulations continue to evolve and become more stringent, having a robust consent management strategy is essential for any website that uses cookies to enhance user experience, track analytics, or serve personalized content and advertisements.

What is Local Storage and How Does it Work?

Local storage allows websites to store data directly on a user's browser, providing a more persistent form of data storage compared to cookies. Unlike cookies, data stored in local storage doesn't get transmitted to the server with every request, making it an efficient way to store information locally. Despite its benefits, the use of local storage raises questions regarding data privacy regulation and the need for user consent.


What is the Difference Between Local Storage and Cookies? 

Local storage and cookies are both ways to save information on your computer when you visit websites, but they work differently. Imagine cookies are like small post-it notes a website leaves on your computer to remember you by, and local storage is like a bigger notebook where a website can store more information for its own use later. Here are some differences between cookies and local storage: 

  • How much they can store:
    • Cookies: Can hold less information, approximately 1 page of text.
    • Local Storage: Can hold more information, approximately 2,500 pages of text.
  • How long the information stays:
    • Cookies: Can be configured either to disappear after you close your browser or to stay for a  longer period of time.
    • Local Storage: The information stays until you manually delete it or clear your browser's history.
  • How much information they send to websites: 
    • Cookies: Every time you visit the website that gave you the cookie, your browser sends the cookie's information back to the website. This can be useful for the website to remember you, but it also means sending extra information every time, which can slow things down a bit.
    • Local Storage: The information stays on your computer and doesn't get sent to the website every time you visit. This is good for saving a lot of information that the website doesn't need to know every time you visit.
  • How safe each one is:
    • Cookies: need to be used carefully because they can be used to track what you do online. The good news is there are some settings to help make them safer.
    • Local Storage: It's also important to be careful because in the wrong hands it can be used to run bad code on your computer. But it doesn't send your information back to websites like cookies do.
  • What they are used for:
    • Cookies: can be used for things like keeping you logged in on a website or remembering what's in your shopping cart.
    • Local Storage: better for saving more information on your computer, like your preferences on a website, without slowing down your visits to the website.


Do I Need Consent for Using Local Storage on My Website?

When considering the use of local storage on your website, it's important to understand its implications for user privacy and how it aligns with data privacy regulations, even though these regulations might not explicitly mention local storage. Local storage, same as cookies, allows websites to store data on a user’s device, but unlike cookies, can hold data indefinitely until it is manually cleared by the user or by the website itself. This ability to store significant amounts of data without an expiration date raises privacy concerns, especially when the data involves personal information.

Given this context, your business’ website should adopt a cautious approach towards using local storage, similar to how you manage cookies, which includes informing your users about what data is being stored, why it's being stored, and how it will be used. Transparency is key to maintaining trust and ensuring users feel secure about their data on your website.

Obtaining user consent is a critical aspect of this process. Best practices suggest that websites should not only inform users but also actively seek their consent before storing any data that could impact their privacy. This approach is in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States, which emphasize the importance of user consent for data collection and storage. Under GDPR, consent must be freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous. Similarly, CCPA requires that users have the right to opt-out of the sale of personal information and mandates transparent privacy practices.

Moreover, it's essential to provide users with clear options regarding their data. This means allowing them to choose whether they consent to the storage of data on their device and giving them the ability to easily manage or delete this data. Implementing user-friendly privacy settings and clear instructions on how users can control their data aligns with the principles of both GDPR and CCPA compliance.

While local storage provides a powerful tool for enhancing user experience on websites by allowing for the storage of data on users' devices, it also necessitates a responsible approach to privacy. Informing users, obtaining their consent, and providing them with control over their data are key steps in ensuring compliance with data privacy regulations and maintaining user trust.

What is Session Storage and How Does it Work?

Session storage is a type of web storage that enables websites to store data for the duration of a page session. It provides a temporary place to store information such as user inputs, disappearing once the session ends. Like local storage, session storage offers a way to enhance user experience without the privacy implications of 3rd party cookies, though it still necessitates consideration of privacy law.

What is the Difference Between Session Storage and Cookies? 

Session storage and cookies are both ways to save information while you're browsing the web, but they work differently. You can think of session storage as a temporary memory for your current browsing session, while cookies are more like a diary that keeps track of your visits and actions on a website over time. Let’s look at some of the differences between the two in more detail: 

  • How long they keep data:
    • Session Storage: Keeps data only while your browser is open. If you close the tab or browser, the data is gone. It's like a note that disappears when you close the book.
    • Cookies: Keep data for a longer time, even after you close the browser. They're like notes that stay in the book until you decide to erase them.
  • How much information they can store: 
    • Session Storage: Can store a lot of information, same as local storage, approximately 5MB 10 MB, or 2,500 pages of text.
    • Cookies: Can only store a little bit of information, approximately 1 page of text.
  • Where they can be used:
    • Session Storage: The information is only available in the tab where it was created. If you open a new tab, even if it's on the same website, it won't see the information.
    • Cookies: The information can be used across the whole website, no matter which page or tab you're on.
  • How they interact with websites:
    • Session Storage: Stays on your computer and doesn't get sent to the website every time you visit a new page.
    • Cookies: Get sent to the website every time you visit a page, which helps the website remember things about you, like if you're logged in, or what you added in your shopping cart.
  • How safe they each are: 
    • Session Storage: Generally safer because the information doesn't leave your computer.
    • Cookies: Need to be used carefully because they send information back to the website, which could be a privacy concern.


Do I Need Consent for Using Session Storage on My Website?

Session storage is a web technology that temporarily stores data for the duration of a user's visit to a website, clearing the data once the browser session ends. Unlike cookies, which can persist for a predetermined amount of time and track user behavior across sessions, session storage is limited to a single session, making it inherently more privacy-friendly.

However, despite its temporary nature and the fact that it is generally less intrusive than other tracking technologies, it is important to consider the implications of using session storage in the context of data privacy regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the European Union and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the United States.

Under GDPR, personal data must be processed lawfully, fairly, and in a transparent manner. While session storage might not require the same level of user consent as cookies, especially if it's used for essential functionalities of the website (like maintaining a user's session without tracking them across different sites), being transparent about its use is crucial. This means informing users about what data is being stored, for what purpose, and how it is being protected.

Similarly, the CCPA requires businesses to provide clear information about the collection and use of personal information. Even though session storage might not fall under the same scrutiny as more persistent forms of data storage, adopting a transparent approach and providing users with control over their data aligns with the spirit of CCPA.

To ensure compliance and foster trust with your users, consider the following best practices when using session storage on your website:

  • Privacy Policy Updates: Update your website's privacy policy to include information about the use of session storage, detailing the type of data stored, its purpose, and how it is handled during and after the session.
  • User Consent: Although not always mandatory for session storage, obtaining user consent for storing personal data can enhance transparency and trust. This could be integrated into your website's initial consent management platform, offering users the option to agree to the use of session storage for non-essential functionalities.
  • Data Minimization and Security: Only store the necessary amount of data required for the session and ensure that this data is protected through appropriate security measures to prevent unauthorized access.
  • Compliance Checks: Regularly review your use of session storage in the context of evolving data protection laws and regulations to ensure ongoing compliance.

How do Cookies, Local Storage, and Session Storage Comply with Data Privacy Regulations?

Navigating the complex landscape of data privacy regulations is essential for websites utilizing cookies, local storage, and session storage. Each of these technologies plays a role in how personal information is collected, stored, and managed online, making it crucial for website operators to understand and comply with relevant laws and directives. Here's an expanded overview of how these technologies can align with key data privacy regulations:

GDPR Compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a comprehensive data protection law in the European Union that has set a global standard for privacy. It emphasizes several key principles:

  • User Consent: For cookies and similar technologies that track users or process personal data, GDPR mandates obtaining explicit consent from users. This consent must be informed, specific, freely given, and revocable. Websites often use Consent Management Platforms (CMPs) to manage this consent process effectively, allowing users to select which cookies they allow.
  • Data Minimization: GDPR encourages the collection and storage of only the data that is necessary for the specified purposes. This principle applies to the use of local storage and session storage, where data should be limited to what is needed for the functionality of the website.
  • Right to Be Forgotten: Users have the right to request the deletion of their personal data. Websites must ensure they can effectively remove user data from cookies and web storage upon request.

CCPA Compliance

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) protects the privacy rights of California residents. While it shares similarities with GDPR, it has its unique requirements:

  • Transparency: The CCPA requires businesses to disclose their data collection practices, including the use of cookies and web storage technologies. This involves informing users about what data is collected and for what purpose.
  • User Rights: Users have the right to access their personal information, request the deletion of their data, and opt-out of the sale of their personal information. Websites must provide mechanisms for users to exercise these rights, affecting how cookies and storage technologies are managed.

ePrivacy Directive (Cookie Law)

The ePrivacy Directive, often referred to as the "Cookie Law," is specifically focused on the privacy implications of electronic communications within the EU:

  • Informed Consent: Before placing cookies or using similar technologies that track user activity or store information, websites must obtain informed consent from users. This directive makes a distinction between essential cookies necessary for the technical operation of a website and non-essential cookies, where consent is mandatory.
  • Transparency and Control: Websites are required to provide clear and comprehensive information about the use of cookies and other storage technologies, allowing users to make informed decisions about their privacy.

Compliance Across Jurisdictions

With the emergence of other data protection laws like the Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD), compliance becomes even more challenging as each jurisdiction may have its nuances. Websites operating internationally must consider the broadest set of requirements to ensure compliance across all applicable regulations. This often involves implementing robust data governance practices, including:

  • Developing and maintaining a detailed privacy policy that clearly outlines the use of cookies, local storage, and session storage.
  • Ensuring that consent mechanisms are adaptable to meet the requirements of different regulations.
  • Regularly auditing and updating data collection and storage practices to align with evolving legal standards.


How can Clym Help Managing My Website’s Cookies, Local Storage, and Session Storage?

Clym provides a dynamic solution for handling your website's cookies, in line with international privacy regulations. Our Cookie Consent Banner and Consent Management Platform (CMP) help facilitate your business’ path to web compliance while prioritizing user privacy across various regions. Clym’s compliance solution stands out by offering a centralized tool that addresses the intricacies of managing web storage technologies in a legally compliant manner and incorporates data privacy with web accessibility compliance.

By leveraging Clym’s services, your business can ensure that it not only respects user privacy but also adheres to the evolving landscape of global privacy laws.

Key Features include:

  • Cookie Consent Banner: Clym’s Cookie Consent Banner is user-friendly and engages your site visitors right from their first interaction. It informs users about the use of cookies and storage technologies on your website, facilitating informed consent in accordance with global data privacy laws.
  • Consent Management Platform: Our platform is designed to automatically identify and categorize your website’s cookies and storage uses based on the requirements of different data privacy regulations. This ensures that your visitors have the flexibility to adjust their preferences at any time, providing a clear and compliant way to manage consent.
  • Robust Data Governance: With Clym, data governance becomes less of a burden. Our platform facilitates your website’s compliance with the latest privacy regulations by continuously scanning and updating the categorization and classification of your scripts, cookies, and storage uses. This means any new additions or changes made by your team are automatically recognized and integrated into the privacy widget, eliminating manual efforts and reducing the risk of non-compliance.
  • Peace of Mind for You and Your Legal Team: Knowing that Clym is handling the complexities of compliance allows you and your legal team to focus on your core business activities without the constant worry of privacy regulation breaches. Clym’s comprehensive approach ensures that your website’s use of cookies adheres to legal standards, keeping you ahead of compliance issues.

See us in action today by booking a demo or contacting us to discuss your specific needs.


FAQs about Cookies, Local Storage and Session Storage

What are cookies, local storage, and session storage?

Cookies, local storage, and session storage are technologies used by websites to store data on a user's device to enhance user experience, track activity, and provide personalized content. Their use must comply with data privacy regulations like GDPR, CCPA, and the ePrivacy Directive. 

Do I need user consent for using cookies on my website?

Yes, privacy laws like the GDPR and CCPA require user consent, particularly for non-essential and 3rd party cookies. Consent can be managed through tools like a Cookie Consent Banner and a Consent Management Platform (CMP).

How do cookies differ from local storage and session storage?

Cookies are small data files for tracking and personalization, sent to the user's device. Local storage provides more extensive data storage directly on the browser, while session storage temporarily holds data for the browser session's duration.

Is consent required for using local storage and session storage?

While not always explicitly mentioned in privacy laws, best practices for GDPR and CCPA compliance suggest informing users and obtaining consent, especially when personal information is stored.

How can Clym help manage my website’s cookies, local storage, and session storage?

Clym offers a comprehensive solution, including a Cookie Consent Banner and CMP, to help websites manage user consents and ensure compliance with international privacy laws, simplifying the process of web compliance.