All Blog Posts

GDPR Cookie Consent

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the ePrivacy Directive (ePR) affect how you as a website owner may use cookies and online tracking of visitors from the EU.

Updated January 17, 2022.

Your website is required under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to let users from inside Europe control the activation of cookies and trackers that collect their personal data.

This is the crux of GDPR cookie compliance – and the future of our digital infrastructures.

In this blogpost, we explain the most important things for you to know when dealing with EU’s GDPR, cookies and data privacy compliance on your website – and show how Cookiebot consent management platform (CMP) solves them all for you.

GDPR, cookies and compliance

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an EU legislation that governs all collection and processing of personal data from individuals inside the EU.

Under the EU’s GDPR, it is the legal responsibility of website owners and operators to make sure that personal data is collected and processed lawfully.

A website outside of the EU is required to comply with the GDPR if it collects data from users inside the EU.

Even though cookies are mentioned only once in the GDPR, cookie consent is nonetheless a cornerstone of compliance for websites with EU-located users.

This is because one of the most common ways for personal data to be collected and shared online is through website cookies. The GDPR sets out specific rules for the use of cookies.

That’s why end-user consent to cookies is the GDPR’s most used legal basis that allows websites to process personal data and use cookies.

The GDPR requires a website to only collect personal data from users after they have given their explicit consent to the specific purposes of its use.

Websites must comply with the following GDPR cookie requirements:

  • Prior and explicit consent must be obtained before any activation of cookies (apart from whitelisted, necessary cookies).
  • Consents must be granular, i.e. users must be able to activate some cookies rather than others and not be forced to consent to either all or none.
  • Consent must be freely given, i.e. not allowed to be forced.
  • Consents must be as easily withdrawn as they are given.
  • Consents must be securely stored as legal documentation.
  • Consent must be renewed at least once per year. However, some national data protection guidelines recommend more frequent renewal, e.g. 6 months. Check your local data protection guidelines for compliance.

Typically, GDPR cookie compliance is achieved on websites through cookie banners that allow users to select and accept certain cookies for activation rather than others, when visiting a site.

Cookieboot Pop Up Banner - Cookiebot
GDPR compliant cookie banner by Cookiebot CMP.

The European Data Protection Board’s (EDPB) guidelines from May 2020 clarify what constitutes valid consent on websites in compliance with the GDPR.

EDPB guidelines state that your website’s cookie banner is not allowed to have pre-ticked checkboxes and continued scrolling or browsing by users cannot be considered as valid consent for processing of personal data.

Users must freely give a clear and affirmative action to indicate their consent in order for your website to activate cookies and process personal data.

Learn more about what the EDPB Guidelines mean for your website

Learn more about GDPR and cookie consent

Scan your website for free to see what cookies are in use

Test if your website is in compliance with the GDPR’s cookie consent requirements by using the free Cookiebot CMP compliance test.

Simply enter the URL of your domain and let us conduct a free scan of your website to detect all cookies and trackers on the up to five subpages that are included in the free scan, and whether or not you live up to the GDPR’s cookie consent requirements.

Don’t be alarmed to find that your website has a lot more unknown cookies, trackers and trojan horses that you thought – they are notoriously difficult to know of, considering that –

72% of cookies on websites are loaded in secret by other third-party cookies, making them difficult to know of as a website owner.

18% of cookies on websites are trojan horses, i.e. cookies that are hidden as deep as within eight other cookies, making them practically impossible to detect without deep-scanning technology.

50% of trojan horses will have changed between visits, meaning that they can be different cookies altogether, collecting different data for different agents, and making the legal responsibility of the website owner to always inform users of the purpose and duration of cookies a headache from the get-go.

Source: Beyond the Front Page, a 2020 research paper on website cookies.

Learn more about the EU’s GDPR

Learn more about how to achieve GDPR compliance

Visit the EU website on data protection

See the official GDPR law text

Illustration of a women putting curtains shut - Cookiebot
The Internet’s changing landscapes are shaped by your website’s cookies and GDPR.

Cookiebot CMP by Usercentrics is a plug-and-play consent management platform (CMP) – a technology developed to help balance data privacy and data-driven business on your website.

Our solution is made up of an unmatched scanner that detects all cookies and trackers on your domain, and a consent management solution that automatically controls them all and empowers your end-users with granular consent or opt-out solutions, depending on where in the world they are located.

When a user from EU visits your website, Cookiebot CMP automatically geotargets their location and presents them with the correct solution for GDPR cookie compliance:

  • auto-blocking of all cookies and trackers for prior consent
  • granular, explicit consent choice between four categories of cookies
  • exhaustive declaration of provider, purpose, duration and type of each cookie
  • securely documented user consents
  • automatic renewal requests of user consents
Screenshot of the Cookiebot GDPR cookie consent solution - Cookiebot
Our GDPR cookie consent solution that lets users control their own data privacy on your website in full compliance with the GDPR.

The Cookiebot CMP technology comes with just a few lines of JavaScript on your website, installed directly from the cloud without any need for manual implementation or on-site assistance.

Create your Cookiebot CMP account to get started and let our world-leading consent solution take the hard part out of privacy protection and compliance with GDPR’s cookie consent requirements.

Learn more about GDPR and cookie consent

The Internet is a changing landscape.

It was built as a flat sandbox but has become an uneven land full of user exploitation and privacy invasion that has remained largely unregulated until now.

Illustration of person sitting on the control key of a keyboard - Cookiebot
In the changing landscapes of the Internet, websites are important ecosystems that Cookiebot CMP help foster balance and protection on.

Your website is a dynamic system that is also constantly changing, and interacting with the personal, private and sometimes intimate data of real, living people. In the whole Internet, your website might seem small and insignificant, just another domain among the billions.

But in fact, your website – whatever its size – can host hundreds of trackers and trojan horses that feed on your users’ private data without their knowledge or consent.

As the Internet has become a fundamental infrastructure in our societies – directing our finances, health industries and our private, social spheres – laws to protect personal data from unconsented collection and use are emerging all around the world.

One of the biggest and most influential data protection laws today is the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Learn more about how GDPR cookie compliance works, and how our CMP provides the solution to meet all of the GDPR’s cookie consent requirements below.

With Google Consent Mode and Cookiebot CMP, you can make all your website’s Google-services run based on the consent state of your end-users – full GDPR compliance with optimized analytics data and ads revenue through in one simple solution.

Cookiebot CMP manages the consent of your website’s users, then communicate the consent states to the API running Google Consent Mode who then governs all your favorite services (like Google Analytics and Google Ads) based on the consent state of each individual user on your website.

Did a user not consent to statistics or marketing cookies? Cookiebot CMP tells Google Consent Mode which then makes sure that you still get aggregate and non-identifying insights into your website’s performance and the possibility of showing contextual ads instead of targeted ads – respecting user privacy while optimizing your website.

With Cookiebot CMP and Google Consent Mode, get instant and simple GDPR compliance plus optimized analytics data and ads revenue in one solution.

Get started with Google Consent Mode

By now, you probably got the whole point about how cookies and GDPR are linked: personal data is protected by the EU’s GDPR, and cookies most often collect information that under the GDPR is considered personal data, and so you’re website is required to comply to the GDPR when using cookies.

But are cookies personal data?

Personal data is any information that relates or can in any way be related to an identified or identifiable living person (known in the law as a “data subject”).

This includes:

  • Names
  • Home addresses
  • E-mails
  • Identification card numbers (such as social security, passport etc.)
  • Location data (such as geolocation through a phone)
  • IP addresses
  • Search and browser history
  • Health-related and biometric data
  • Ethnic information
  • Political convictions
  • Religious beliefs
  • Sexual orientation

The EU’s GDPR actually considers the last five points on the checklist above as a special category of personal data called sensitive personal data.

In the rare case that your website processes any of this kind of data, the GDPR requires you to comply with specific processing conditions.

Visit EU on personal data and GDPR

Man using a grab machine to pick up padlocks - Cookiebot
GDPR and cookies: how balanced are these in your website’s dynamic system?

The EU’s GDPR on cookies

Cookies are small text files that are stored on your end-users’ browsers, as you probably know.

What you might not know is that cookies most often contain an identifier (known as a “Cookie ID”) that is in itself considered personal data under the GDPR.

Yes – under GDPR, cookie IDs are considered personal data.

A cookie ID is the identifier that is included within most cookies when set on a user’s browser. It is a unique ID that allows your website to remember the individual user and their preferences and settings, when they return to your website.

But cookie IDs often follow users around on the Internet and can be used to generate comprehensive profiles on individual people that are then sold to digital advertising agencies and used for behavioral marketing.

Screenshot of the Cookiebot GDPR cookie consent solution - Cookiebot
Third-party cookies from Google detected and controlled by Cookiebot CMP.

GDPR requires that your website only collects personal data from your users for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes, and that you obtain their clear and affirmative consent before doing so.

In your everyday work with your website, this GDPR cookie requirement means that you not only need to know what cookies and trackers are in operation on your domain, but also why they are there.

  • Where do the cookies come from, i.e. who is their provider?
  • What kind of data do the cookies collect or process? Is it personal data? If so, do you make sure to obtain prior consent before they are activated and begin collection?
  • What is the purpose of the cookie’s data collection? For lawful personal data collection, legitimate purposes must be stated as part of the information that you give to your end-user, or their consent can be considered invalid.
  • What type of cookie or tracker is it? The technical details are important as part of a valid consent, as this is part of the information requirement.
  • How long is the cookie active for, i.e. for how long will it be stored on your users’ browsers?

EXAMPLE – cookies and GDPR

Your website uses a plugin from a tech company like Google or Facebook. This could be Google Tag Manager or a comment/like section on one of your subpages from Facebook.

You will now have cookies on your website.

They are third-party cookies because they do not come from your own website but are set on a user’s browser from Google or Facebook.

These cookies will not be necessary cookies, i.e. not white-listed and exempt from the GDPR, but rather will need the explicit consent of users before your website is allowed to activate them.

Even though these third-party cookies come from companies like Google or Facebook, the legal responsibility for GDPR cookie compliance is still yours as the website owner.

By know you probably have no doubt – yes, your website has cookies, GDPR requires you to control them and you’re looking to become compliant.

But very likely your website has more than one type of cookie. This is important, as the GDPR cookie requirements are different for the different types of cookies and tracking technologies in use on the Internet.

The EU’s data protection legal regime has the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as its basis, but is also made up of legal precedents like the case of Planet49, the ePrivacy directive on electronic communications (EU cookie law), and guidelines from both national data protection agencies and the European Board of Data Protection (EDPB).

Altogether, they form the specific requirements that websites who have users from inside Europe must comply with today.

The sum of this legal regime is that in the EU, consent must be given by users in an explicit, unambiguous way; their consent must be granular; their consent must be given freely and their consent must not be nudged or given in return of services.

Illustation of hands holding a phone - Cookiebot
Your website is a dynamic system that must balance the GDPR and use of cookies at the same time.

Full GDPR cookie compliance means that your website must –

  1. Know of all cookies and trackers in operation,
  2. Inform users of cookies and their duration, purpose and provider,
  3. Offer users a choice of granular consent, i.e. the possibility of activating some cookies rather than others on your website,
  4. Enable users to withdraw their consent as easily as they gave it,
  5. Document all consents in a secure and encrypted fashion,
  6. Ask for renewed consent at least once every 12 months.

For your website, this means that you need to enable your end-users to choose between the different types of cookies your website has.

In compliance with the GDPR, cookies fall into four categories on Cookiebot CMP –

  • Necessary cookies that are most often your website’s own (first party) and important to have activated at all times in order for your domain to function properly. These will most often be session cookies that only last as long as the user’s visit to your site. Only strictly necessary cookies can be white-listed to be exempt from GDPR cookie consent.
  • Preference cookies that remember user choices such as language settings or currency on your website.
  • Statistics cookies that most often come from third-party services such as analytics software that you implement on your website.
  • Marketing cookies that almost always come from third-party tech or ad companies for the purpose of serving advertisement to your users or collect personal data from them for future marketing purposes.

Under the EU’s GDPR, cookies that are not strictly necessary for the basic function of your website must only be activated after your end-users have given their explicit consent to the specific purpose of their operation and collection of personal data.

With the Cookiebot CMP deep-scanning technology, all your website’s cookies will be detected, and their technical details explained to you and your users in a simple cookie declaration that provides all the required information for full GDPR cookie compliance.

And with Cookiebot CMP, your website will always be informing its users with accurate and updated information on how it collects and shares their personal data.

Scan your website for free to see what cookies are in use

Your website needs to have a cookie policy that is easily accessible for your end-users.

Under the GDPR, a cookie policy must inform users of –

  • What information you collect
  • What you do with their information
  • How you protect their information
  • If you disclose any information to third parties
  • How you store their information
  • How users may access, migrate, request rectrification, restriction or deletion of information

Cookiebot CMP automatically generates a cookie declaration for your website once it has scanned your domain.

This forms the basis of your cookie policy, as it contains most of the information that is required by the EU’s GDPR in a cookie policy.

A GDPR cookie policy can easily be integrated with your website’s existing privacy policy.

See the Cookie Declaration and Privacy Policy of Cookiebot CMP for examples on how to draft your website’s own and what information you need to include.

A cookie policy is a dynamic thing, since your website is a dynamic system. Cookies change and so must your cookie policy.

Our solution automatically generates a cookie declaration which ensures that your cookie policy is always up to date. This will save you considerable amounts of time spent on drafting and keeping it updated yourself.

Learn more about how to generate a GDPR compliant cookie policy for your website

All right, you made it to the end of a long article on GDPR and cookie consent. Way to go!

Cookiebot CMP has been in operation since 2014 and is a matured technology that ensures compliance with the EU’s GDPR and similar data protection laws around the world through our unmatched scanning technology and consent management solution.

The technology takes the hard part out of compliance and privacy protection, and works every day to make privacy protection a simple and smooth solution today to guarantee a human future on our digital infrastructures tomorrow.

Sign up to Cookiebot CMP today and try free for 14 days… or forever if your website has less than 50 subpages.

See our Pricing Plans

See our Features

Need Help with Cookiebot CMP?

Learn more about cookie consent

Illustration of a computer file with a volt lock dial  - Cookiebot
Protect user privacy on the ever-changing digital landscapes with Cookiebot CMP for a compliant balance between GDPR and cookies.


How to get website cookies to be GDPR compliant?

Under the EU’s GDPR, cookies on your website that process personal data from individuals inside the EU are only allowed to be activated after the end-user has given their consent to do so. That means, any cookie on your website, that is not strictly necessary, and process personal data must be deactivated until the end-user accepts its activation.

Learn more about GDPR and cookie consent

What does the GDPR say about cookies?

Under the EU’s GDPR, cookies are only mentioned once, however the EU-wide legislation sets clear rules for how personal data is allowed to be processed by websites, chief among the rules are the necessity of obtaining explicit consent from end-users before collecting their data – and so, any cookie on your website that processes personal data must remain inactive until the user consents.

Learn more about compliance with the EU’s GDPR


Learn more about GDPR and cookie consent

Learn more about the ePrivacy Directive (EU cookie law)

Learn more about Planet49 and valid cookie consent in the EU

Visit EU’s official website about data protection

See the official GDPR law text

See Beyond the Front Page, a 2020 study on website cookies

Discover how behavioral advertisement on the Internet works

Visit the European Data Protection Board’s website

    Stay informed

    Join our growing community of data privacy enthusiasts now. Subscribe to the Cookiebot™ newsletter and get all the latest updates right in your inbox.

    By clicking on “Subscribe” I confirm that I want to subscribe to the Cookiebot™ newsletter. I can easily cancel my Cookiebot™ newsletter subscription and revoke consent to use my data by clicking the unsubscribe link or I can write to [email protected] to make the request. Privacy policy.