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90% of visitors declined ICO website's opt-out cookie

Oh sir... it's only wafer thin... Just the one, sir...

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As we know, no one is on time in implementing the EU's cookies directive. Well, two countries managed to get their laws in place in time, the other 25 didn't bother.

The UK has given everyone a year to comply, a year longer than we're supposed to have. Not fixing your website doesn't seem to be an option, given the £500,000 fines that can possibly be levied.

All of which is something of a problem. Anyone running a website knows that when someone visits that site you want to know where they're from. Not, particularly, because website masters are nosy bastards, but because the advertisers you rely upon to pay for the website want to know. No know, no cash.

But the way we know is by the cookies, and now we have to allow people to opt out from those cookies when they visit the site. There's only one site I know of which currently complies with the law: the Information Commissioner's site. Get there and you'll see this:

The ICO would like to use cookies to store information on your computer, to improve our website. One of the cookies we use is essential for parts of the site to operate and has already been set. You may delete and block all cookies from this site, but parts of the site will not work. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy notice.

I accept cookies from this site. [tickbox]

OK, so far, so bletheringly stupid, but hardly the end of the world. Which is what makes looking at it from the other side so interesting. Intrepid researcher Vicky Brock filed a FOI request and found that, umm, recorded traffic fell by 90 per cent.

At least that's what happened with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) when it implemented the new law with existing technology. Over 90 per cent of site visitors declined to accept a Google Analytics cookie, thereby disappearing from their analytics.

We all know that most websites don't collect all the information we'd like to from visitors – and the advertisers know this too. But if this is replicated across the web, then it's rather a serious kick in the teeth for the idea of an advertising-supported web.

Lord Lever pointed out that he knew that half his advertising was wasted, just not which half. Cookies and click-throughs and all that are supposed to help out in the brave new digital world. But if we're in future only going to get 10 per cent of the information we currently do: well, how much are advertisers going to want to spend on blasting ads who knows where? ®

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