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With only two days to go until the EU E-privacy Directive comes into affect, a new survey has found that only 24% of online consumers are aware of the new law.

This is despite the fact that 84% of respondents in the TRUSTe survey said they are aware of cookies.

A similar survey we ran in April with Toluna Quick found that 69% of online consumers are aware of cookies and what they do.

The findings of these two surveys prove that people generally know what cookies are, yet in our survey only 23% said they would be happy to say yes to cookies.

But the new law doesn’t just cover cookies, it includes a broader category of website trackers. The TRUSTe survey found that only 58% of consumers were aware of these other tracking technologies.

A previous investigation found that UK websites drop an average of 14 cookies per page, with more than two-thirds (68%) coming from third parties. This suggests that there is still a gap between the widespread use of website trackers and consumer awareness of the practice.

If a website asks for your permission to set cookies when you visit, would you be happy to say yes?

In a press briefing held last week the Information Commissioners Office said it hoped websites would lead the way in educating consumers on the new law.

Group manager for business & industry Dave Evans said it would be “strange and naïve” for the ICO to think it was better placed to educate consumers than major websites.

However, the TRUSTe survey suggests there is still a huge amount of work to do to educate the general public.

The survey only polled online consumers who are likely to be better informed of the cookie law. As such, awareness among the general population is likely to be far lower.

Among those who said they were aware of the new law, 78% said they expect companies to comply and 55% said they only plan to visit compliant sites going forward.

In reality though, it is unlikely that the impact on those who don’t comply will be that drastic. For example, if Facebook or Google don’t fully comply with the law it is folly to suggest that people will decide to boycott their services en masse.

The data in TRUSTe's report came from a survey of 2,004 GB adults aged 16-64. 

David Moth

Published 24 May, 2012 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1690 more posts from this author

Comments (2)

Steve Morgan

Steve Morgan, Freelance SEO Consultant at Morgan Online Marketing

As expected. Thought it'd be lower, actually!

I think the big concern is in the way people are potentially being educated about it. If their first experience of all this is visiting a website, being greeted with a pop-up that mentions "something going on their computer" and asking for their consent, they're going to think that someone that was once previously effectively harmless to them (i.e. to the extent that they didn't know about it previously) is now suddenly this potentially terrible thing to become paranoid about...

In other words, while there was probably no reason for panic and alarm previously, this whole directive may even be the CAUSE of panic and alarm for most online consumers.

over 4 years ago

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David Gelb

I agree with Steve 100%. The consumer will always see this as a negative and am also surprised about how many people are aware of the law as none of our customers were until we started to really push the message.

The question is can you apply cookies and just let customers know like the BBC has done or do you have to disable them and ask people to opt in to continue browsing with cookies? Obviously the former is preferred by most of us but the letter of the law seems to be indicating the latter which is the concern.

over 4 years ago

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