We have been discussing whether the revised rules on cookies have made any real difference to an internet user’s awareness and acceptance.
A cookie is a small file, typically of letters and numbers, downloaded onto a user’s device when they access a website. Cookies are then sent back to the originating website each time the user makes a further visit. Cookies are useful because they allow a website to recognise a user’s device.
In 2010, an EU advisory body, the ‘Article 29 Working Party’ demanded stricter opt-in standards for cookies, setting the tone for implementation by member states.
The UK implemented the rules on time, and rather ahead of other European countries. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office, the ICO, was fairly relaxed about achieving compliance, recognising that it was not always easy to comply with the revised rules. It allowed a lead-in period of 12 months for organisations to develop ways of meeting the new requirements.
The ICO has invited complaints through its website about cookies since the system was changed. Numbers of complaints have been small and falling. Between October and December 2013, only 53 concerns were reported about cookies. By comparison, in the same period, individuals used the website to report 29,529 concerns about unwanted marketing communications.