ICO reveal only 18 websites had more than one cookie complaint in 2013

20140316-005845-1024x576

Since the ‘cookie law’ was introduced in the UK, the number of websites asking for permission to set cookies has been growing. Even small company websites are affected, in fact it strangely seems to be them who’ve been the group that have adopted these mechanisms most actively. These usually take the form of a banner or popup. Most of them are fairly ugly, intrusive and what’s worse, they sometimes even break other parts of the website, commonly mobile versions. But, the vast majority of sites still have no cookie warnings and no cookie policy.

So do the ICO have cookie law at the top of their list? Do the public understand cookies well enough to be bothered about reporting their improper usage?

Well I made a Freedom Of Information request to the ICO to find out – specifically asking how many sites had complaints made against them in 2013 and enquiring about any follow up actions.

The information I requested is in bold below…

The number of websites that have had a complaint lodged against them by a member of the public during the period Jan 2013 – Jan 2014 inclusive.

ICO reply: A total of 220 concerns about individual websites have been about brought to our attention via the reporting tool for the period between Jan 2013 and Jan 2014.

The number of websites that have had more than 1 complaint lodged against them by a member of the public during the period Jan 2013 – Jan 2014 inclusive.

ICO reply: 18 of these were organisations that were raised as concerns with us more than once.

The number of warning notices (emails/letters) issued to websites that have had a complaint lodged against them by a member of the public during the period Jan 2013 – Jan 2014 inclusive.

ICO reply: We sent out a total of 51 letters in the time period for which information was requested.

The number of websites that have had any action taken against them (above and beyond a warning letter/email/notice) as a direct result of member of the public raising a complaint during the period Jan 2013 – Jan 2014 inclusive.

ICO reply: We have not taken any formal action beyond writing to organisations and discussing their compliance with them. As is reflected online, this has resulted to sites taking significant steps, so formal enforcement has not been necessary.

So no action harsher than a letter or discussion and only 18 sites with more than 1 complaint all year. I hope this shows that you don’t need big cookie warning banners, you don’t need to force visitors to click ‘agree’ or ‘ok’ before setting cookies. Simply make sure you have a clear cookie policy explaining the name of the cookie, its purpose and the length it’s set for – that should be plenty to keep the ICO at bay.

If huge sites like Amazon and Tesco don’t have ugly and often overly intrusive banners or popups about cookies – why should anyone else? I imagine their vast legal teams told them to ignore it and wait for any warning letters that might arrive before taking action…

My advice (if you’re interested) is by all means add a cookie policy but for heavens sake remove the banners and popups. Good riddance to them all, what a waste of time for all concerned.

P.S. The reply from the ICO also made clear that whilst they receive “very low levels of concerns reported by members of the public” in relation to cookies, the emphasis is still every much on “unwanted marketing communications” – they received over 29,000 complaints of this nature in Q4 of 2013 alone.

3 thoughts on “ICO reveal only 18 websites had more than one cookie complaint in 2013

  1. Fantastic work, Will. I’ve been having some cookie law FOI fun myself and will be reporting it soon.

    I found it quite interesting that ICO did not release a list of the sites that were reported, as they did with their 2012 report. What we learned from 2012’s list was that cookie law complaints were largely vexatious and ad-hominem, for example, George Osborne and Nick Clegg both had their constitutency sites reported.

    I’m left with the impression that for ICO, cookie law complaints are their crank calls hotline, with only the occasional legitimate issue cropping up amongst the spurious complaints filed by disgruntled competitors and axe grinders.

    1. Agreed Heather. The whole sorry mess should never have been thrust upon us. Let me know when you publish your FOI details and I’ll happily give it a share and add it into this post if it’s linked to the info I have (I imagine it will be?) I can easily see competing sites reporting each other, as well as people reporting sites they’ve got a grudge against for any other reason. Thanks for commenting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *