Tuesday 20 November 2012

Cookies: Revised ICC Guidance and the Spice Girls

Just another week to go before everyone gets very excited about the revised cookie guidance, which is due to be published by the UK Chapter of the International Chamber of Commerce, at a conference in Central London on 27th November.

Tension is mounting – what will be new and transformative?

Hopes are running high that the ICC won’t have altered their advice to a significant extent. The last thing data controllers are likely to want is the insertion of the word “not” in a piece of guidance that they have been using since last April.

Have I seen the latest draft? Not really. So I am now going to speculate on what it might contain.

I’m hoping it may offer a little more guidance on suggested wordings that data controllers could use if they don’t feel inclined to create their own text. Whether the actual words will matter is another issue. I’m getting too used to seeing a cookie button and instinctively clicking on it to get to the content I was trying to access in the first place. No, I don’t read these notices. Nor do I opt out of cookies, either. I actually find them useful. They present me with adverts that are embedded in a website that I’m slightly less likely to ignore than might otherwise be the case.

Of course, I do clear up my browsing history every once in a while by popping over to The Vatican’s website and seeding an electronic trail through some of their more interesting material. I do hope that whoever is monitoring my online behaviour understands what is happening. But I doubt it.

Given the general apathy that appears to exist about accessing the information that so many data controllers have sweated buckets over trying to provide, I’m wondering what cunning wheeze will next be created to force users to be interested in this stuff.

In the UK, voters have shown a remarkable reluctance to vote for Police and Crime Commissioners, so what is it that will get them more engaged in this process? Before it’s formally called a huge failure, that is. Perhaps most people really don’t want to know, after all. What an uncomfortable truth that might me.

My proposal is that all webmasters should be required to adopt a “Spice Girls” approach to consent. This approach requires the webmaster to present a series of choices to the user before they get to access the stuff they really wanted to see.

So, in my world, the user would be presented with a notice advising, in effect, that: “We use cookies, get over it. Click here if you’re sure you want to get to the free content.”

When the user clicks to get to the content (let’s be honest, the overwhelming majority will), another message will pop up which asks, teasingly: “Are you really sure?”

And, it’s only when the user clicks the second time to indicate that they’re really sure, that they get what they were after.

[If they’re after adult-related material, perhaps third step could be added which asks: "Are you really, really sure?”]

If anyone has any evidence that the newly introduced cookie consent measures have led either to users who are better informed, or, more significantly, users who have actually changed “their” preferences after having been prompted about the choices that are available to them, please get in touch. I would be delighted to hear about it.

More information about the conference which will launch this revised ICC UK guidance is on my website.

Others who feel similarly inclined to readjust their browsing pattern every once in a while to confuse the marketing community could also pop over to http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm