So what has this change meant for those businesses, and their web traffic?
The new legislation requires any website to receive consent before
collecting information about its users by means of “non-essential”
cookies. It has its root in the EU Privacy and Electronic Communications
Directive, and became UK law in May 2011 with websites given until 26
May this year to comply.
Some commentators had pointed out that the original wording of the
law failed to explicitly state what constitutes “permission” on the part
of the website user. But on the eve of the deadline, the Information
Commissioner's Office (ICO), which is enforcing the directive, published
last-minute amended guidance to the effect that implied consent would
be a valid form of consent for webmasters seeking compliance.
Initial results indicate that websites adopting an 'implicit consent'
approach – that is, informing users that cookies are running and
offering them the option to disable them – have so far not seen
significant decline in traffic. According to technology solutions
company QuBit's analysis of half a million interactions since the EU
Privacy Directive came into force, websites asking if users accept
cookies are experiencing a 99.7% acceptance rate. In contrast, the
acceptance rate of sites seeking explicit consent from users before
receiving cookies is just 57.2%.
Cookies are simple text files that are downloaded onto a device when
its user visits a website. They are used by the vast majority of
websites to record preferences, track orders and aid web analytics.
Cookies that are required for the basic running of a website will, in
most cases, be unaffected by the law.
Graham Cooke, chief executive of QuBit said: “The cookie law is
designed to increase transparency around websites identifying users,
which is a good thing.
“At the same time, however, losing things like analytics,
personalisation, testing and personalised marketing could seriously
impact the effectiveness of a website and so maximising cookie consent
is vital to minimising the impact of the law.”
There are a number of add-ons and audits that can be used to establish the cookies being used by a given website. Firefox’s View Cookies
and Trust-e’s Website Tracker and Cookie Audit
QuBit offers a free product called Cookie Consent that has been designed to help companies tailor their approach to requesting consent from website users.
For a guide to the cookie law, see the International Chamber of Commerce UK Cookie Guide.
Research from comScore
suggests that nearly 37 per cent of users delete third-party cookies
within a month. Therefore, even though implied or explicit consent has
been granted for a site in the past, users of that site may be prompted
To prevent this, software compnay BlueCava
has advocated the use of Device ID technology. Rather than storing a
user's consent in another cookie, Device ID tracks the computer, laptop
or smartphone itself, meaning that once the user of a device has given
consent for cookies to be used by a certain site, their preference is