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The ICO’s cookie law and its impact on Google Analytics

31st March 2021 | | Blog, Marketing

You probably have heard about the introduction by ICO (Information Commissioner’s Office) on a ‘cookie’ law that has been introduced for all websites in the UK.

This law states that the internet user must give his express consent to websites that track behavior for whatever reason. So, ideally, before a user enters a website, a notification would appear, clearly informing the user about the cookies or tracking method being used and allowing the user to accept or reject the use of cookies/tracking method for monitoring the user’s behavior. The website would only be allowed to set the cookies or tracking method after getting the go ahead from the user. Not just that, a website would have to give clear and crisp details about various cookies being used. All in all, the regulation states that the user must be aware of exactly what he is getting into, before he/she authorise the use of cookies.

The Law

Those setting cookies must:

  1. Tell people that the cookies are there
  2. Explain what the cookies are doing
  3. Obtain their consent to store a cookie on their device

Who does this Regulation Apply to?

This regulation applies to all Cookies viz. Session Cookies, Persistent Cookies, 1st and 3rd Party Cookies, Analytical Cookies and any other method that might be employed to store user information or track user behavior.

The Problem

Well, the key problem is that a normal website would use several cookies and each one would need to be accepted by the user. What if a naive user comes to a website and is threatened by this whole concept of cookies and how it is being used to track behavior? What if this information overload about the amount of cookies being used, their exact nature and lifespan and other details, causes a visitor to just bounce off? Besides, is it even scalable? Can you give the user clear information about which cookie is being used where and how it works? Worst still, for SEOs around the world, the major problem would be that if a user refuses to accept the use of Analytics Cookies. This will mean that despite the user visiting and surfing your website, no tracking data will be recorded.

The red flag here is that consent has to be “Opt In,” it cannot be implied. The user has to knowingly accept the use of the cookie. The whole regulation revolves around “consent” and so comes the big question; “How do we obtain consent in order to comply with this law?”

The “Pop-Ups, Footer Bars & Splash Pages” Conundrum

Having Pop -Ups, Footer Bars or Splash pages that ask for permission to set cookies seems to be the most practical solution to comply with the “Cookie” Law. ICO suggests that cookies could be set on the second page view.

Although this sounds perfect, it’s not so easy to implement as a majority of websites and analytics set cookies on the very first page view. Another possible implementation is to load the analytics code, only after receiving the consent.

So … What did we do?

Websites should have:

  1. Audited the cookies currently being used.
  2. Updated the privacy policy on the website to include the use of cookies.
  3. Implemented a method of offering “opt-in to cookies”.

At the moment, we have completed the above 3 recommendations for our all of our clients, however our the current method installed on our websites gives the opportunity to opt out after the data has started to be tracked. Whilst we feel this is a bit of a grey area when it comes to the ‘cookie law’, Dental Design have decided to implement a new system which will only start tracking data when a user has click ‘ok’, this type of method may cause a drop in your monthly stats (Since Google Analytics uses cookies to identify users and their actions and attributes, this means that if a user opts-out of cookies entirely, they won’t be tracked as a visitor at all through your analytics).

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