In reaction to the EU Privacy Directive on cookie usage, the UK has established national law that requires all sites to ask for user consent before placing any cookies on the site that are not “strictly necessary” to the site’s function. This past December, the regulation was clarified to separate analytics, advertising, or personalization cookies from those cookies that are critical for the site, meaning that it may become increasingly difficult to measure user engagement for UK sites. If UK sites are not compliant (by asking consent of users before dropping any cookies) by May 2012, or do not have a clear plan of action for becoming compliant, they may fall subject to the enforcement of these cookie regulations.
What does this mean for those of us in Web marketing and analytics?
Early research* reveals that site visitors may have a high propensity to opt-out of allowing cookies to be placed on their sites. Losing visibility into what people are doing on site will prevent marketers from understanding the consumer, customizing the user experience, and measuring the full return on marketing dollars. This will have a huge impact on digital media, which relies heavily on data to optimize and target campaigns. While these changes only affect sites within the UK, and greater Europe, this could become the reality for US sites in the near future. The onus is now on marketers to communicate the necessity and benefits of allowing cookies to help create a better user experience.
There are a number of steps that companies can take now to ensure that their UK sites are compliant with the new regulation, including:
- Conduct a full audit of cookies on your site and determine if they are “strictly necessary”
- Standardize the language that your site will use to explain how cookies are being used
- Implement the opt-in notifications where cookies will be placed
Thank you to my colleagues and co-authors Michael Helbling, Ben Meck, Matt Pedone and Joulia Shuk for their contributions in writing this article.
*Based on the initial impact of the implementation on the ICO.gov.uk website, analysis performed by Vicky Brock