By John Harrison
There is a lot of debate about the whys and wherefores of this legislation which is covered elsewhere. This analysis is about the implications of this legislation on cookie based website analytics systems.
Attempts, such as the ICO's, in trying to make cookie based website analytics systems compliant with the regulations end up going nowhere.
In order to use a cookie based web analytics system one needs to gain the positive consent of the user. The regulations are quite explicit in that one cannot assume consent until a positive ‘opt in’ is made. Unless this opt in is obtained it is against UK law for a website to use a cookie in the furtherance of website analytics.So what is the problem in adding an opt in mechanism for user when using cookie based website analytics systems?
The problem is that website analytics systems measure activity and user interaction on the website. For the information to be of use it needs to be reasonably accurate. If, however, it is only activated when a user consents to its use then it is not measuring website activity, it is in fact measuring website activity only of those who consent to opt in. This is not the same.
Website managers will be missing activity from their cookie based website analytics reports from those users who do not give their consent to cookie usage. They will be better off moving to a non cookie based website analytics system.Other techniques for website analytics
IP address and user agent is a different technique for website analytics and there is a difference between what it and cookie base methods report. We will leave that for another discussion but nevertheless IP address and user agent is still accurate enough for the Audit Bureau of Circulations to permit its use in website analytics systems it allows to be used for auditing website activity.
Implementation is no different to most cookie based systems as both usually require a tag needs to be placed on each website page.
To summarise, the solution to the dilemma posed to website managers by the new regulations and their cookie base analytics systems is clear. In order to comply and still have reasonably accurate website analytics they should refrain from using an opt in banner in combination with their cookie based website analytics system. Instead they should use an IP and user agent based website analytics system. Do this and you will have a solution to your problem.
John Harrison is CEO of Maxsi Limited