If you are in the EU and you have a website, you might be aware of the new EU cookie law. Not familiar with the law? Well, in short, the law states that your website should be gaining some degree of consent from visitors before using cookies. The law is a little vague on the term ‘consent’, but by now, you will probably have an idea what this means if you have visited any websites with pop-ups asking for consent.
So what’s the issue when it comes to cookies?
Cookies are used to gather information for a range of functions. Whilst they all track our web usage to some extent, I personally feel that people are most concerned by the ways in which the information is used, rather than whether cookies gather the information in the first place. Here’s why:
Data gathering is nothing new. Tesco, for example, has the power via their Clubcard, to gather very personal information about us: our lifestyles, preferences, behaviours, routines etc could all be turned into very tailored and possibly intrusive marketing activities. But while Tesco has a potential goldmine of data to utilise, they actually keep their marketing relatively lightly targeted. Why?
Well, there could be many reasons, but there is no doubt that Tesco will be acutely aware that employing marketing messages that are too personalised and too intrusive could damage their brand. Brands need to be trusted to be successful, and Tesco certainly has a brand to protect.
This now gets to the crux of the issue:
Online businesses have been able to over-use cookie-generated data without risking their brand value.
We find ourselves in an unusual situation where the concept of cookies has been criticised by many, rather than the companies that use them. But, as we all know, cookies are just like the Tesco Clubcard: a means of gathering data. It is the company’s use of the data that ultimately upsets people.
And it’s understandable. Some types of cookie have enabled companies to cross the line with their marketing – becoming too targeted, too personalised and too intrusive. Those companies have had nothing to hold them back – no denigration of brand value – so why not just carry on?
The good cookies are now packed alongside the bad cookies
You might be thinking that’s still too intrusive. But without this data, there is no doubt that the internet would offer a different – and worse – experience today.
Statistics software such as Google Analytics has been used for years to inform decisions regarding how websites should be improved for the benefit of the visitor. Content, design, layout, functionality and many more aspects have all been improved over the years by using statistical tools to gauge what visitors do and don’t like.
There is also no doubt that statistical software has enabled costs to come down for many products and services. Twenty years ago, businesses spent huge amounts on marketing with many suffering the common problem: “we know half of our advertising is wasted, we just don’t know which half”. That wasted advertising kept costs up and was ultimately paid for by the customer. Now, with online marketing and online statistics, marketers can cut out the marketing that doesn’t work and can afford to operate on much smaller budgets. Market forces dictate that those savings are ultimately passed onto the customer.
Is the cookie on the way out?
The future for cookies (and their use) is uncertain. Only the EU has implemented a cookie law, so the reaction from the rest of the world’s governing bodies is likely to influence how robust this law ultimately becomes.
It’s fair to say that the law has been slow to motivate website owners to become compliant. However, some websites are now beginning to offer visitors a way to block cookies from their PCs with the click of a button. But, how do those websites then keep track of who has chosen to block cookies?
Well, of course, by using a cookie.Cookies, EU Cookie Law, Websites