Cookie refusal leads to 90% drop in measured visits to ICO site
UK— The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has seen a 90% drop in the number of tracked visits to its website since it started asking web users for explicit permission to place a cookie, as required by new European Union rules.
Figures show that in the three weeks leading up to 24 May – the day before the ICO introduced the new cookie arrangements – average daily visits were 8,237. In the three weeks after the change there were 883 (see chart).
In the 2010/11 financial year the ICO website had 2.4m total visits, meaning average daily visits were 6,575 – not far off the average seen during what would have been a period of heightened interest in the organisation, as companies looked to see how the EU rules would be interpreted and enforced.
The May/June data was released under a Freedom of Information request from web analytics consultant Vicky Brock of Highland Business Research. Brock, who is also a board director of the Web Analytics Association, said the figures were “really scary”.
Page-tagging, Brock says, is often used by sites to understand things like traffic flow and user experience – fairly innocuous and anonymous forms of measurement compared to something like behavioural tracking, which has caused most consternation among legislators and privacy-conscious web users. But they are also the types of measures where seeing only a tenth of your total visitor activity “is not very helpful at all”, she says.
Companies may find themselves having to look back to older methods of web analytics – things like log-file analysis, Brock says, which won’t provide website owners with the same “wealth of intelligence they are used to”.
Websites have until next May to comply with the new European cookie rules, after which the ICO will fine companies for breaches.