The 25th of May marked the day when the European Union’s new e-Privacy Directive was slated to take effect. The directive generated a huge storm of controversy for all parties involved in affiliate marketing, but as the deadline has come and gone, it seems that the EU’s policies were all bark and very little bite.
For the affiliate marketing industry, the most troubling aspect of the laws involved restrictions on cookies. Currently, cookies are an integral aspect of data management and are the main source of the information that is used to properly track where customers came from and subsequently reward affiliates.
Essentially, the EU’s directive stated that websites would have to obtain informed and explicit consent from their visitors through notifications every time a cookie is to be placed on their machine. The only exception is for cookies strictly necessary for the legitimate purpose of enabling the use of an explicitly requested service. Before that, consent was implied by your browser’s cookie settings.
The last part essentially means that customers would not be notified of things like the cookies which make sure your items transfer from the “shopping basket” page to the “checkout” page. Other than that, users would have to agree to pop-up notifications to an extent that could theoretically destroy the usability of any iGaming site. Additionally, for retail purposes, this would have shifted business heavily from the EU to the United States, where there is no regulation regarding cookies.
Now that the date of enforcement has passed, it’s pretty obvious that most of the EU’s 27 member nations have chosen to ignore compliance. Of the three countries attempting to comply, only the U.K. is a major player in web-traffic (my apologies to Denmark and Estonia). Why has such a majority of the EU shunned the legislation?
Naturally, the underlying sentiment of the ruling is well-intentioned. Black-hat uses of cookies exist and are malicious. However, the problem doesn’t lie in the possible misappropriation of cookies by outside parties. The problem is the general ignorance of computer users towards cookies. I would venture to say that the majority of people who use iGaming platforms are unaware of the cookies used to track their play.
The best approach is not to regulate cookies in the manner suggested by the EU, but to educate internet users on cookies and how they can be used to take advantage of them. For the most part, first-party cookies like the ones used by Google Analytics are beneficial and efficient. Without cookies, the internet would be a much more frustrating place. Imagine logging-in to a site every few pages or so? Imagine minimal retention of your preference settings for sites?
Rather than fearing cookies, people should embrace them. With a minor knowledge of cookies, it is very easy to avoid being deceived, as for the most part cookies are used to help rather than harm. An educated user will know how to avoid malicious cookies, whereas someone being “protected” by the new EU laws will simply be presented with a pop-up notification for approval on a topic he is ignorant of in the first place.
Realistically, compliance with the EU’s policy will never happen. Even in trying to comply, the UK is softening its stance, as seen with one-year period for sites to get their act together. In the end, this regulation is simply not fruitfully enforceable and will end up as no more than a small statement placed discreetly at the bottom of a page. Instead, we should be educating people on how to manage cookies themselves rather than attempting to force a cookie-cutter approach that is crippling to user friendliness.