Webtrends IP-less Cookie

Data Concerns

With electronic surveillance projects like PRISM catapulting data intrusion and collection issues into the headlines, privacy is becoming more and more high profile in today’s Big Data era. It’™s a concern for consumers and providers of digital media alike. Consumers don’™t like the idea of their browsing history being available to Big Brother, yet this same information is key for website-owning organisations to monitor and improve their performance. Organisations need to balance the need for data with the need to have the trust of their customers.

Recent EU legislation attempted to resolve this issue by forcing websites to obtain consent from visitors before serving cookies, but studies have shown that only a tiny minority of people (less than 2%) actually block cookies. So what’s going on? Are people really concerned by cookies? I think the answer is a qualified yes, despite the lack of action actually taken by the consumer. A survey by eConsultancy showed that 89% of those surveyed thought the EU cookie legislation was a positive step and that only 23% of people would be happy to accept cookies. So, people are clearly concerned about cookies and a potential invasion of privacy but have little understanding of what a cookie is and how it is used. Cookies essentially have an image problem!

Cookie Make Over

It is left to the analytics providers to take a lead in addressing public concerns in order to protect their customers’™ (and their own) business interest. A cookie make-over is needed to increase trust and preserve loyalty in the face of fast changing public opinion. And that’s just what Webtrends has done by introducing their new IP-less cookie.

A step in the right direction

Traditionally Webtrends cookies have been constructed using the visitors IP address to generate a random value. In order to remove the IP address, Webtrends is phasing in the new cookie over the coming months. New visitors will receive the new IP-less cookie, while returning visitors will have the expiry date of their cookie (containing their IP address) set to 1st January 2014. Webtrends estimates that, as many visitors clear their cookies every month, by this date only 5% of visitors will have the old style cookie left on their machine. You don’™t need to do anything to make this happen, the process will be automatic.

However, an option is provided to remove the final 5% for organisations that want to totally eliminate IP storing cookies. This requires adding a JavaScript plugin to the new v10.4 tag which forces the overwriting of the old cookie value with the new. However, this is a value judgement each organisations has to weigh up independently. None-the-less this is a step in the right direction towards reassuring web visitors that analytics need not be overly intrusive and that, hopefully, will preserve the ability for organisations to collect and analyse the data they need to make essential business decisions.

For more information read Webtrends Knowledge Base Article: Improved Data Collection

Still worried about giving visitors cookies?

Leading up to May 2012 there was a lot of confusion about the legal requirements for giving cookie to Visitors (used by almost all sites to provide metrics on site traffic).  This resulted in a number of different implementations providing a variety of user experiences.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) eventually provided clarity (http://bit.ly/ZzXyOW), but there are still sites today whose method of dealing with the regulations is overly intrusive.  If you think you may be one of them, read on!

The underlying EU regulation stated that consent must be obtained.  However, this requirement has now been watered down, so that “implied consent is a valid form of consent”.  It is important that users understand what is going on and this must be explained clearly and openly, but in practice it is now widely accepted that, as long as you provide explicit navigation to a cookie policy page containing clear descriptions of all cookies, how they are used and how they may be deleted, that is sufficient.

So, say goodbye to those large banners and irritating pop-ups!

P.S. If you are looking like for an example of how to implement your cookie policy, the ICO one is as good as any other – http://www.ico.org.uk/Global/cookies.aspx