‘Brands should offer more info on cookies’

Brands should provide as much information as possible about the data their websites gather on consumers for behavioural advertising or risk mass opt-out from consumers, according to Google.

Google

The advice comes a month before the EU Privacy and Communication Directive comes into force on 26 May after a year-long grace period to prepare for compliance.

The directive requires all European websites to gain consent from users to use cookies that garner data – or else face fines of up to £500,000.

Google, which launched a campaign with the Citizens Advice Bureau last year explaining how user data is used in online advertising, has found that giving users “transparency and control” over their data has actually led to them actively providing more information to receive better targeted advertising.

The search giant says that out of every eight people that visits its Ads Preferences Manager, just one will opt out and the other seven will either modify their interests or just view the information.

The Ads Preferences Manager allows consumers to view and edit categories and demographics associated to them by the Google Display Network advertising cookies stored in their browsers, or opt out of the cookies altogether.

A Google spokeswoman says: “The lesson for the industry is that providing clear transparency and choice helps to diffuse fear, uncertainty and doubt.”

Around 80% of brands are thought to have started or completed a cookie audit in order to be compliant with the Directive, according to an ISBA poll, but most have still not implemented consumer-facing consent option on their websites as they weigh up the options.

The IAB has published a five-point guide on complying to the Directive. It encourages website owners to make their privacy information “above the fold” in a different font or colour and to ensure the language used is contextual – such as saying “how does this website work?” rather than “privacy policy” – to best inform consumers about how their data is used.

Nick Stringer, the IAB’s director for regulatory affairs, says to be transparent about user data brands must make sure their communications are meaningful.

“Some websites are just listing all the cookies they collect on users at the moment – but that can mean nothing to the average consumer – instead [brands] should focus on [saying] how collecting user data makes the user experience better.”

Read Marketing Week’s Michael Barnett on the Cookie compliance

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