5 months after the deadline of the prominent ‘cookie law,’ the first statistics are yielding optimistic results. The announcement of the EU Cookie Directive resulted in a plethora of catastrophic (yet very imaginative) scenarios for website owners; websites would be brought down, customers would opt-out of cookies and as a result user experience would be poorer.
Ok, but what is the EU Cookie Directive?The EU Cookie Directive was introduced in May 2011. But as webmasters need time to align their websites with the new law, a 12-month period was granted. The supposed purpose of the ‘Cookie Law’ is to increase data privacy and online security as well as users’ involvement in the (almost always) unanswered question of how personal information is used and stored. Unsurprisingly, only a small minority of internet users care about their personal information; according to Stanford University, only 39% and 33% agree strongly and somewhat respectively that there should be laws to protect internet privacy. At this point, it’s worth noting the difference between US and UK privacy, as the term itself is conceived differently by the two nations. According to Jeff Chester, of the Center for Digital Democracy, "in Europe, privacy is enshrined as a civil right, based on the experience that happened in Europe with Hitler and with communism, and you (Europeans) have embedded important civil safeguards around privacy that places the system in balance between the citizen and the corporate sphere and the government. In the US, while privacy is a form of a right, it is in fact the free market which determines most of the policies when it comes to the internet." This law addresses EU privacy concerns by asking website owners to incorporate detailed information of what information cookies hold and how long it is stored. Either by adopting the modal dialogue (dialogue box), the status bar (status bar visible until users opt in to cookies from the website), or the warning bar (similar to the status bar) website owners have enforced the legislation. The penalty for not complying with the EU Cookie Legislation is the ‘extreme’ amount of £500,000!
What is the effect of the ‘cookie law’ 5 months after the website owners’ compliance with it?The analysis of 231 of the UK’s top websites showed that 63% had done something to address the ‘cookie law’ – of which 12% had implemented a ‘robust consent management solution providing users with prominent cookie notice and robust or user-friendly controls. The data privacy management company TRUSTe released the first statistics on the impact of the cookie law on website users and owners. The survey examined 29 websites of 35 million users in United Kingdom and revealed that the vast majority of website users are not concerned about getting more information on cookies and privacy, as there were only 1.47% clicks on the ‘about cookies’ icon (that is over 10 times the average click through rate on the typical banner ad). Of the visitors to the “About Cookies” page, 8.2% clicked on cookie settings and took the following actions:
- 14.8% chose to change their settings to "functional cookies,” defined 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,” defined as “cookies required enabling core site functionality.”