Cookies are a no-no for the majority of UK web users

Less than 25 of web users will be happy about opting into cookies following next month’s introduction of the EU ePrivacy directive, according to the latest survey from Econsultancy. A survey of over 100 web users discovered that 17% would definitely say no to accepting cookies if they were prompted when they arrived at a website. 60% said maybe, depending on what the would be used for, and only 23% said they would say yes.

The aim of the EU ePrivacy directive is to force companies in the UK to amend their websites and provide better guidance to the site visitors over how the cookies will be used. Companies that do not comply with the directive face fines of up to £500,000.

Cookies have many different uses. For example, they can save the contents of a shopping cart (60% said this was ok), or track user experience via web analytics (only 35% were happy to accept these cookies). 21% of web users would authorise cookies that were used to improve the targeting of ads.

A bigger survey of 1,593 respondents found that nearly a third of web users don’t know what a cookie is, nor why websites use them.

There is a lot of confusion and concern over the new directive among UK businesses. Complying with the law may impact badly on the user experience.

The survey revealed that only 26% of visitors would provide consent to cookies that helped to make a website easy to use. 24% would ‘soldier on’, while 50% would use another website. That last statistic is particularly worrying for businesses.

Econsultancy has compiled a best practice guide to help steer companies down the path to compliance.

Graham Charlton, the report’s author, says: “The ECPR is a major – and somewhat unwelcome – challenge for online businesses in the UK. As the survey results show, persuading users to opt in to cookies will be very difficult.

“E-commerce sites that rely on analytics to improve the user experience and maximise conversion rates, and publishers which rely on advertising income in order to offer free content online face a serious challenge.

“The law could result in a loss of data, sales and ad income for many online businesses.”

Econsultancy’s five-step plan to help businesses to comply with the new law is as follows:

1. Carry out a cookie audit

2. Evaluate the privacy impact of each cookie

3. Carry out a business risk assessment

4. Figure out how you can inform users about cookies

5. Investigate methods for gaining consent

The guide is available for download at: http://econsultancy.com/reports/the-eu-cookie-law-a-guide-to-compliance

The guide is available for journalists and Graham Charlton will provide one-on-one briefings upon request