CookieLaw Blog May 7, 2013

One Fifth of UK Consumers Reject Online Tracking

Almost exactly a year ago, Mozilla released figures showing that user adoption of Do Not Track had grown by 35% in six months. Last week they released a new Do Not Track dashboard which shows how that growth has not only continued, but accelerated.

According to their latest figures, in the last 12 months, the percentage of users switching on DNT has increased nearly threefold, from 4.15% to 11.4% globally.

However, there are significant regional variations which make for interesting reading.  The UK is often touted as the most advanced digital economy in the world.  We have greater uptake of ecommerce per head than the US, and a greater proportion of our GDP is reliant on digital business than any other major economy.

Yet, according to Mozilla, we also have the highest proportion of users asking not to be tracked, 19.41% of desktop users.

Lastest figures from the IAB show digital advertising spend in the UK in 2012 was £5.5bn – an increase of 12.5% over the previous year.  Much of this spend is reliant on sophisticated tracking technologies.  It has been a huge success story – big brands talk about using tracking to better understand their customers, or to ‘build better relationships‘ as the phrase often goes.

Yet, presented with these figures, can those same brands continue to risk alienation by not respecting the wishes of the fifth of the market that doesn’t want to have this “better” relationship?

Significant numbers have clearly not bought into the argument that tracking equals better online products and services.  They want out, or at the very least, they want a choice about accepting the value of this exchange.

Now, what brand is going to tell them that, sorry, we are not actually listening to or respecting your wishes on this? 

If 20% of their customers told them they wanted a change to a product, you could bet they would produce it.  Yet advertising, and especially digital advertising, is a product.  That ‘better relationship’ is the product of digital advertising.  A product that 20% of people in the UK appear not to want.

Who will listen to them?

And what does this tell us about the cookie law?  It has been dubbed a failure by many, with reports that consumers don’t like the impact it has on user experience.

Yet the truth is the vast majority of websites do not give visitors any chance to opt-out of tracking of any type, despite the cookie law requiring them to do so. Without choice, cookie notices are an annoyance and a waste of time.  

Adding choice to a cookie notice turns that interruption into a tool that many visitors value – as the Firefox figures clearly demonstrate.

Many websites that think they are compliant with the cookie law, and are almost certainly safe from enforcement, are nevertheless risking alienating a significant proportion of visitors who want choice and control.

So that notice-only ‘compliance’ solution, whilst being a cheap, quick fix for the cookie laws, could still turn out to be an expensive mistake, if visitors’ wishes for greater privacy continue to be ignored.

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