CookieLaw Blog July 5, 2011

BBC Technology Blog Covers ICO Traffic Story

This story has been going round the blogs in the last few days, but with the Beeb’s own Rory Cellan-Jones stepping up to comment on it, the ICO’s drop in visitor stats is set to become an even hotter topic.

And having just released the first beta of our own cookie law tool this week, it seemed appropriate to comment.

There is no escaping the fact that the ICO has seen a 90% drop in their visitor count according to their web analytics.  However, as has been pointed out, that does not mean a drop in visitors, just the ones that can be counted.

There could be many different reasons why visitors to the ICO website are not giving their consent. 

They are in a sense a special case website – because of the nature of what they do, their visitors are keenly interested in privacy, so their reaction to the ICO message is likely to be different because of this interest.

Lots of people would have been visiting their site immediately after the implementation purely to look at what they had done, and those visitors would not give consent becuase to do so removes the message – and therefore defeats the purpose of the visit.

There is also the fact that, from the point of view of their regular visitors, this was an entirely new idea – and many people may be simply ignoring it becuase it is an unfamiliar request.

However, perhaps just as significantly, if not more, it could be what they say, and how they make the request. 

Anybody who has compiled surveys or done market research knows that how you phrase your question can have a huge impact on the response you get.

The wording on their header would seem to be very deliberately neutral – it gives you information, and asks for consent, but it has nothing that tries to persuade you to give it.

Another issue with their tool is that it requires two clicks – one to tick the box, a second to click the button. That really is too much effort for most users without a clear advantage.

Our own Cookie Law consent notice at the top of the page takes a different approach – with a clearer message and a single click to give consent.

However we recognise ourselves that we don’t yet know what the reaction to this will be in terms of acceptance, and that this kind of messaging may not work for some sites.

That is why we are going to be developing alternative layout options, and trialling different messages to test market the best way to get consent for a range of different websites.

We will keep you up dated of course.

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