TrustArc Blog

The EU Cookie Directive – The Inside Story

October 30, 2012

Danilo Labovic
EMEA Managing Director | TRUSTe

At the start of 2012 the headlines were full of predictions of doom as the EU Cookie Directive was single-handedly going to bring down websites, marketing, online publishing, and ecommerce as consumers opted out of cookies and abandoned websites due to a bad user experience. Five months on, what is the real story of how the Cookie Directive has impacted major website owners?

At TRUSTe we looked at the consequences of using a robust consent management solution to comply with the EU Cookie Directive by reviewing the actions taken by a sample of 3.5 million users of 29 different UK website implementations from June through September 2012.  The companies included in the analysis all use TRUSTe’s EU Consent Manager solution to comply with the Directive.  TRUSTe has been working with clients ranging from Oracle, to publishers such as Forbes & IDG, and consumer brands such as Aldo Shoes who have all chosen the TRUSTe EU Consent Manager solution to manage compliance and cookie preferences on their websites.

The good news for website owners is the vast majority of visitors are continuing to allow full “Advertising Cookies” with only a small minority of visitors (0.05% or 5 in 10,000) choosing to change their default cookie setting and only allow “Required or Functional Cookies” on the websites they visited. With the ICO due to publish a progress report on the Cookie Directive in November, these findings show that the impact of complying is minimal and at the same time research shows that greater transparency about tracking may increase trust.

The highlights of the analysis are:

  • Sample consisted of 3.5 million unique visitors to a UK website featuring the TRUSTe EU Consent Manager solutions
  • 1.47% chose to learn more about their preferences by clicking on the “Cookie Preferences” icon and going to the “About Cookies” page (this is over 10 times the average click through rate on the typical banner ad)
  • Of the visitors to the “About Cookies” page, 8.2% (approximately 1 in 12) chose to view their Cookie Settings and took the following actions:
  1. 14.8% chose to change their settings to Functional Cookies”, described as “cookies that allow us to analyse site usage so we can measure and improve”
  2. 26.8% chose to change their settings to Minimal Cookies” described as “cookies required to enable core site functionality”
  3. 58.4% did not change their setting from the default of “Advertising Cookies”, described as “cookies used by advertising companies to serve ads that are relevant to your interests”

These statistics show for the first time clear evidence that sites with a robust compliance solution are not experiencing significant opt-out rates and at the same time are further building trust with their customers by giving them both notice of the tracking activity and the ability to easily make an informed choice about their tracking preferences.