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Blog - EU cookie legislation and the effects of implementation

Earlier in the year new legislation came into effect requiring website owners to ensure that their website get explicit permission from each user before using cookies to store information on the users web browser. The legislation was drawn up in response to complaints that websites were using cookies for behavioural advertising.

There was considerable resistance to the new law as many website developers pointed out that cookies have a wide range of uses, many of which have nothing to do with advertising. The legislation was later deferred for one year to give website owners a chance to comply with the new legislation.

One of the biggest issues with the cookie law is that many websites use cookies to track traffic statistics. Cookies are not the only way to do this but they are by far the most popular. Services such as Google analytics use cookies to track where visitors come from, what they look at and how long they stay. Website owners use this information to monitor how users interact with the website, which areas are popular and what areas are not.

The issue is that many visitors will not give permission to use cookies by default without actually knowing what they are or what they do. The concern is that if the majority of website users do not allow cookies many websites will be forced to adapt to not using any cookies what so ever which in turn could have a huge impact on the ongoing development of the world wide web.

To see for ourselves how many people would give permission to use cookies we decided to implement the required changes to make a test website complaint with the new law. We emulated the example set by the ICO and watched the traffic being reported by Google Analytics:

The only cookies being used on this website were those from Google Analytics and there was no advertising on the website at all. The only change we made was to add a compliance message at the top of the page (just like the ICO). Those who gave us permission to use cookies were then tracked in Google Analytics and those who didn't were tracked using server based software. The website was averaging approximately 15000 visitors per month when we made the change.  After the change only 7% of visitors allowed us to track them with Google Analytics.

The other main issue is that this legislation only affects EU websites and many EU countries who have yet to apply the directive from Brussels. As it stands the majority of websites have not implemented any changes to comply with the cookie law.  

 

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