Is the EU Cookie Law proving useful?

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy February 9, 2014
Results from our site suggest that the vast majority of people don't care about the EU Cookie Law. Surely that can't be right?

Does anyone remember the kerfuffle around the introduction of the EU Cookie Law? At the time there were claims it would harm business and that other than fines, it would definitely harm site reputation because, as The Cookie Collective claimed:

...non-compliance could also have other, perhaps more serious consequences than enforcement.  There is plenty of evidence that consumers avoid engaging with websites where they believe their privacy is at risk, and there is a general low level of trust about web tracking by the use of cookies.

I often wonder whether the claims made and 'research' conducted are self-serving to flog some technology or simply to insert FUD into the equation where whatever problem we're talking about is based upon folklore rather than rigorously assembled data points. We've seen this many times in the past and I do worry that articles which say something like 'many people' or 'most people' or 'it is widely known' but without a shred of reliable data to back the claim represent pure marketing fluff. Be that as it may - we're talking about a law here.

There are many ways to ensure compliance and we use one such method. In the early days, some argued we fell short (more FUD?) but from time spent angsting over the topic, I am satisfied we're doing our bit to remain compliant and if we're not, no-one has come knocking on the door to shove us into line. Based on the evidence I am seeing, I'd be inclined to ask what possible difference it would make? But that's me being a belligerent monkey.

Even so, over the months I've been curious to discover whether our readers care so much about this aspect of privacy. The short answer is - apparently not.

Last evening I ran a quick analysis of data covering recent visits from the top four EU countries where our cookie compliance thing was displayed. The results were startling. The simple graph I built from the data is at the top of this story.

It doesn't matter how much I scale the chart, the number who actively choose to opt out is insignificant in relation to the whole. Yes, there are some variations but overall, the number who choose to opt out runs at 0.73 percent. The number who ignore runs at a staggering 87 percent.

This is not an anomaly. Looking back over time, the results have been remarkably consistent, aligning closely with Nielsen's observations around 1:9:90 participation inequality. In short, or at least as it applies to ourselves, the law is not something that reflects the perceived issue of reputation.

I was especially startled by the results coming out of Germany where we are told that privacy laws are among the strictest in the EU and where the dire consequences of a failure to comply are hammered into every developer's brain. (See chart above.) Perhaps our readers from that country are silently flipping the finger at their privacy obsessed masters? I'd have to run a poll on that one but it's a fair hypothesis based upon what I am seeing. 

Which leaves me wondering what other sites find in regard to this topic.

Is the Cookie Law just one more example of an over exuberant regulatory body imposing unnecessary requirements when the evidence we have from this admittedly limited review suggests that only a small minority really cares? Is it the case that some types of site garner trust in ways that are fundamentally different to those that are more consumer/sales oriented? Is there something about diginomica that makes us 'different' and so not subject to the same trust issues as other sites? Or is there something else in play?

Take the poll and let us know - I'm genuinely curious.

[poll id="10"]

Featured image via Foltolia, Ingo Bartuseek

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