Cookie Law in UK: Business Stalking vs. User Engagement

Laurent Francois Co-founder & exec. creative strategist, RE-UP

Posted on May 27th 2012

Cookie Law in UK: Business Stalking vs. User Engagement

There's been a very controversial debate in UK these days about the EU e-Privacy Law.

It's been renamed "EU Cookie law" in many British media, and several businesses opened to offer "cookies audit" solutions to scared companies. Very serious sites like AdAge also dived in the kind of populist fear, with columns like "EU cookie law could be the death of digital". The main argument is pretty weak to my sense:

"When customers opt out of sharing their data, they take away our ability to improve products and services. This law will result in websites becoming, well, dumb again. "Shaina Boone

Let's be sarcastic: it's not because you don't inform consumers that their experience will improve. It's even a marketing mistake: the more you engage people in an authentic way (they know the point A and the point B of the actions you ask for), the more they trust you because you don't mislead them.

A Mozilla Collusion visualisation showing visited websites and the trackers they have downloaded to a browser (© Guardian)The lobby worked well. Information Commissioner's Office declared few hours ago that implied consent is finally valid, but with a compromise: "If you are relying on implied consent you need to be satisfied that your users understand that their actions will result in cookies being set. Without this understanding you do not have their informed consent. ". Very roughly, it means that you certainly need to make some efforts in terms of transparency, not just be satisfied with your 20+ page of privacy policies, totally absurd for consumers (except if they're lawyers). But that there's finally a shift in terms of responsibility to the user rather than the website operator.

Many websites have already solved the problem this problem, in order to better inform their users.

Colin O'Malley, Chief Strategy Officer at Evidon and a guest blogger on Econsultancy, made it right:

"When it comes to the consumer, again, cookies should not be the focus.  It makes no sense to inform them of just the tracking activity that uses cookies".

Because if you focus on technologies only, you endeavour a debate of experts in which consumers can't really understand the issues. Or even worse: they could feel deprived of their own rights.

It's not just a fear as more and more people are looking for below the radar places and are downloading diverse plugins to erase trackers. As privacy has always been a dynamic deal between what a society wants (e-business? e-services? e-dating?) and we're ready to pay for that. Instead of facing consumers, companies should definitely engage conversations at every stair of their marketing. You can't tell you're a social business if in the meantime you hides more controversial lobbies to manipulate people. Because people now have social lights and can quickly retaliate.


Laurent Francois

Co-founder & exec. creative strategist, RE-UP

Laurent runs a creative & digital agency in London, RE-UP.

RE-UP develops strong social media strategies for clients like L'Oréal, Clarins, or Nestlé but also for start-ups in the tech industry. 

Laurent also teaches Digital Marketing & Strategy in diverse business schools (ESCP Europe, ECS etc.).

Laurent was the first head of 360° Digital Influence in Europe (now Social @ Ogilvy), operating for clients like Lenovo, Vodafone, Tom of Finland or French government. He then created a business unit dedicated to social media revenue in one of the main media groups in France.

Laurent blogs on fashion on Hit Bag and Le Boulevardier

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