‘Implicit consent’ best practice on cookies

Brands that have adopted an ‘implicit consent’ approach to complying with the new cookies law, which requires user permission to use cookies, are seeing a near 100% acceptance rate, according to the first major analysis since the European Union-wide directive came into force last month.


Sites which inform users that cookies are running and then offer the option to disable them – implicit consent – are seeing exceptionally high acceptance rates of up to 99.7%, according to customer data platform QuBit’s analysis of 500,000 interactions since the EU Privacy Directive was enforced on 26 May.

By comparison, sites that seek explicit consent from users before receiving cookies are seeing consent rates of just 57.2%.

The report also found that using a notification-only method, which only informs users that cookies are running on the site, results in a 99.9% consent rate.

Google and the IAB have previously said there is no single solution. Google has previously said it finds giving users a feeling of “transparency and control” over their data, including cookies, has led to them providing additional information so they can receive better targeted advertising, an approach echoed by the IAB. Google declined to comment on the research, while the IAB was unavailable for comment.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO), which is enforcing the EU Privacy Directive in the UK, published last-minute guidance on 25 May advising that implied consent is a valid form of consent for webmasters to use in order to comply with the law.

The ICO has taken an explicit approach on its own site, and has seen only 10% of its users opting in to allow the site to receive cookies.

An ICO spokesman says it is “too early to say” how consumers are broadly reacting to cookie notifications appearing on sites but he expects it will play out in a similar way to when privacy policies were first adopted across the web, suggesting the number of people explicitly consenting to cookies will eventually rise.

“People will come to expect more information [on cookies]. At the moment not many people understand how they work but slowly that will start to change, six to 12 months down the line, as more sites become compliant,” he says.

Direct Marketing Association director of public affairs Caroline Roberts says while implied consent does appear to fall on the right side of the legislation and is achieving higher consent rates, companies “cannot afford to be complacent” and hide information on cookies – especially as the definition of ‘implicit’ is open to “generous interpretation”.

She adds: “This doesn’t mean companies can just go ‘phew’ [we’ve been let off the hook]; there’s no point in bamboozling users into something.

“We always say: use this directive for better customer relations and a good exercise to tidy up your site.”