As of four days ago, websites wishing to set cookies for UK viewers are required first to obtain permission to do so. I talked about the largely neglected 2009 EU directive to this effect a year ago on Slaw, when the UK, needing to move on the matter, gave businesses a year's grace to grapple with the law. Now that grace period is over.
The terms of the directive are spelled out here, in an excerpt from my post of a year ago:
The cookie law is paragraph 66 of Directive 2009/136/EC [PDF] and essentially mandates that computer users:
…be provided with clear and comprehensive information when engaging in any activity which could result in such storage or gaining of access. The methods of providing information and offering the right to refuse should be as user-friendly as possible… [See full content in pop-up]
Significantly, the Information Commissioner's Office (an independent UK body rather like our privacy commissioners offices) has determined that implied consent is acceptable compliance. That link will take you to the ICO blog post that sets out more information about the directive and how to comply with it.
Interestingly, the ICO website wants to set cookies. Here's how they tell you what's what:
Canada has no such "cookie law". The issue of informed consent, however, will arise with respect to our new anti-spam statute and regulations.