We all saw it coming a while off but we never really took much notice, or at least that was the impression I got. And then it hit… Twitter was rife with critics of the cookie law, many citing the fact it was destined to ruin user experience and that people would navigate away from sites.

Now the dust has settled, what exactly does the cookie law mean for us as marketers and business owners? How well has it been adopted? And are you ready for the next phase of the EU cookie laws?

For a lot of us the cookie law is extremely confusing. The EU “e-Privacy” directive in relation to the cookie law is actually all about the use of tracking across websites, and while cookies (which are small text files that contain personal site preferences) aren’t particularly a part of tracking, these cookies are used to store online user behaviour that can be read by scripts across the internet. Third party content such as Omniture, Google Analytics and ComScore fall directly under this concept which is why agencies like ourselves, who offer insights and user behaviour data, were very quick to work with our clients to ascertain a quick and efficient solution.

What exactly does it mean for businesses though? Honestly… Not a whole lot. The UK Government, or more specifically the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), changed the cookie law in the 11th hour within the UK to incorporate implied consent. This way an organisation, such as the BBC for example, could offer simple opt-in statements that allow for people to see a simple notification and the end-user continue using the website without it having a major impact on the user experience. There is a slight impact on tracking repeat customers after 30 days across a third of cookies, but there is a way around this which is explored towards the end of this post.

BT however is possibly the champion this time round. While they don’t have implied consent existing on the site, they have introduced a non intrusive box and a site wide cookie option. Using interactive sliders on a light box overlay, the user can easily see what they are opting in and out of. If they don’t opt in at all or use this slider? Then the site still functions on a very basic level and stores no data.

Has it been well adopted though? That seems to be a major question across the board. Besides the government not hitting their own launch target across most of their websites, a lot of the major brands and players across the web were quick to get a notice in somewhere that offered implied consent. Data gathered from QuBit, a data agency in London, from over 500,000 user interactions gave the following insights:

– Explicit consent resulted in a 57.2% consent rate

– Implicit consent generates a 99.7% acceptance rate

– Notification resulted in a 99.9% consent rate

Source: TechRadar

The question that is raised is whether the ICO will feel that the tactics employed by those using notification and implicit consent is actually enough to cover the cookie law, or whether further changes have to be made.

That being said, a part of the directive will become active on the 26th June 2012. This is the date by which at least 35% of all third party cookies will be deleted. And yes… That is 30 days after the introduction of the cookie law. The directive is essentially making certain cookies that store user preferences have a time and date expiration to them. This can be a massive pain to all involved as you are essentially asking the end user, potentially your repeat customer, to constantly set there site preferences.

However there are ways around this. eConsultancy explores the possibility of using Device ID to store the data of the user, thus avoiding the cookie law, however requires the user to constantly visit so that the website can store this data, that would normally be held in a cookie, against a user and therefore generate their preferences in that way.

It is still very early days for the e-Privacy directive. While it’s clear the EU are taking data protection very seriously, there are questions over whether the intent of the EU is in fact correct and whether it has been entirely explored. The first 12 months are important for the cookie law and how it will really be adapted to use, and just how the end user will be affected as well as businesses around the world that base the development of customer relationships on data acquisition and tracking.


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