New EU regulations regarding cookies on websites may sound boring, but could have a huge impact on how businesses are able to track and report their web activity.

The legal situation is very murky indeed, but the new EU e-Privacy Directive means users would have to give their consent (explicitly or otherwise) to have cookies installed that make applications like Google Analytics work.

In an apparent test run of the principle, here in the UK the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) appears to be obeying the letter of the law.

They have included the most incredibly unappealing tick box on their website.  It’s truly scary, and confusing, and boring, and awful:

Accept Cookies Reject Cookies

Can you guess what happened to the reporting produced as a result of this Cookie Insanity?

It won’t surprise you to know that the numbers of tracked visitors would fall once this horrible warning appeared at the top of the site.

But you could well be surprised to find out that the numbers of tracked visitors to the website fell to only 8% of the previous tracked visits.  That means 92% of the visitors declined to tick the permission box.

analytics data cookie refusal

How do we know this?  The very clever Vicky Brock, a director of the Web Analytics Association (@brockyvick) made a cunning request under the Freedom of Information (FOI) and got a hold of the Information Commissioner’s Office web analytics data.

Whereas the site was previously able to analyse the anonymous behaviour of an average of 8237 visitors per day, now they can only report on 883 per day.

So, if you have a small business website with, say, 250 visitors per day, you might be only able to report on 25 of them.  And these people, of course, are the ones who self-selected to tick the permission box.

How to Lie with Statistics Warning:  this graph doesn’t demonstrate fewer people visited the site, just that the ICO is unable to count them or track them.

My thanks to chinwag for the graph, and I recommend you pop over to their site to read more about exactly what Vicky discovered.

And whilst I’m recommending further reading, can I suggest that the very clever Dave Naylor has produced a wonderful interactive guide to the EU Cookies Directive

2 responses to “Allow Cookies or Delete Cookies: And Kill Analytics Reporting”

  1. Hazel Edmunds says:

    I attended an event at Pinsent Masons and picked up some useful tips. It seems that this whole thing is a lawyers benefit!

  2. Phil Holden says:

    Interestingly I don’t think that they do comply with the letter of the law. In their own guidance they state that “Once consent has been obtained users or subscribers may choose to withdraw that consent at any time.” but they do not provide an equally simple device for withdrawing consent.

    BT have just introduced a much more sophisticated slider device that allows you to withdraw consent from different categories of cookie. Interestingly the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) seems to provide much more definative guidance in their recently published “ICC UK Cookie guide”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *