UK website users opt in to advertising cookies

Most UK website users are allowing third-party advertising cookies, according to a study on the effect of the cookie law from TRUSTe

Most UK website users are choosing to allow the use of third-party advertising cookies, according to analysis of the impact of the so-called "cookie law".

The UK regulation on the use of cookies, or small files containing browser information that are placed on web users’ computers, derives from an amendment to the EU's Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive.

The directive and related UK law came into force on 26 May 2011, but the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) gave UK businesses 12 months' grace to comply.

Only 5 in 10,000 are choosing to only allow “required” or “functional” cookies, according to a survey of more than three million UK website users by data privacy management firm TRUSTe.

The survey found 1.47% of the sample chose to learn more about their preferences by clicking on the “Cookie Preferences” icon and going to the “About Cookies” page.

The survey report notes that this is over 10 times the average click-through rate on the typical banner ad.

Of the visitors to the “About Cookies” page, 8.2% – about one in 12 – chose to view their cookie settings and took the following actions:

  • 14.8% chose to change their settings to "functional cookies”, described as “cookies that allow us to analyse site usage so we can measure and improve”;
  • 26.8% chose to change their settings to "minimal cookies” described as “cookies required to enable core site functionality”;
  • 58.4% did not change their setting from the default of “advertising cookies”, described as “cookies used by advertising companies to serve ads that are relevant to your interests”.

According to TRUSTe, the findings show businesses can address the directive and build more consumer trust through greater transparency of their tracking without having a negative impact on their website performance.

“At the start of 2012 there was significant concern about the potential impact of the EU Cookie Directive on businesses if consumers opted out of cookies and abandoned websites due to a bad user experience,” said Danilo Labovic, managing director, Europe for TRUSTe.

But the good news for website owners, he said, is the vast majority of visitors continuing to allow full “advertising cookies” with a minority of visitors choosing to change their default cookie setting and allow only “required or functional cookies” on the websites they visited.

“We recently analysed the cookie compliance solutions for 231 of the UK’s top websites and found that 63% had done something to address the directive – of which 12% had implemented a robust consent management solution providing users with prominent cookie notice and robust or user-friendly controls,” said Labovic.

The latest survey and analysis shows sites with a robust compliance solution are not experiencing significant opt-out rates, Labovic said.

At the same time, these sites are further building trust with customers by giving them both notice of the tracking activity and the ability to easily make an informed choice about their tracking preferences, said Labovic.

The ICO is tasked with enforcing the cookie law in the UK and will publish a progress report in November.

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