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How re-cutting cookies can ease concerns over data privacy

  • Jed Mole

    Jed Mole

Created at December 18th, 2019

How re-cutting cookies can ease concerns over data privacy

More than half (55%) of internet users across the UK and US take five seconds or less to accept cookies when visiting a new website. That’s faster than most people could take a decent bite of the doughy treat, and an alarmingly short period of time, given that cookies determine the data people agree to share online.

Not so fast

Some marketers may welcome the prospect of widespread cookie acceptance. However, we should all be wary of a consumer base which is disengaged with their privacy settings. Based on previous research with the DMA we know that consumers’ awareness of data privacy and their concerns are high, with an average of 74% stating a degree of concern. Getting this right is clearly important: if data usage is to be sustainable it must feel comfortable and beneficial to us all.

Rather than leaving people resigned to ‘the way things are’, marketers can nurture a vibrant, mutually beneficial world of data, by helping consumers to better see how cookies actually work and improve their experience online. Drawing on our latest research , we’ve outlined three key steps brands can take to help nudge consumers into more active engagement with their data and privacy policies.

1. Follow the crumbs – use cookies to address wider concerns around data sharing

The faster users skip through cookie notices (and we know they’re quick!), the more surprised they’re likely to be further down the line, when they discover that an online service provider knows something about them – such as a location they’ve recently visited or a product they’re considering buying.

To avoid this, providers need to make sure consumers know what cookies actually do and how users benefit from them. Part of this would involve demonstrating to consumers that accepting cookies and exchanging data is what keeps services free for people to use.

By explaining how cookies directly benefit consumers, they’ll feel more informed and, crucially, in control of how their data is being used.

2. Remind people why cookies are so irresistible

Most people already view cookies as part and parcel of their online experience: 45% of consumers are happy to accept cookies from online shopping sites, which can use the data to keep items in a basket, for example.

Consumers are clearly happy to accept cookies where the benefit to them is obvious, so brands should offer small reminders of how their quest is being helped by cookies. When someone returns to Google Maps to see the app has remembered their location, they could receive a short message explaining: “We know this because you accepted cookies. If you’d like a reminder of what this means, head to our simple guide on how using cookies benefits your experience.”

3. Ensure simplicity is baked-in to privacy policies

Privacy statements need to be clearer for consumers. This is another place where a sense of inequality can creep into consumers’ minds. But while cookie pop-ups and explainers can be short and snappy, privacy policies are a different, chunkier beast altogether.

There’s a wealth of behavioural research on creative ways to get people to engage more actively with less-than-thrilling information, which we’ll be exploring in an upcoming paper.

One effective method is to simplify the language of privacy policies – using natural, everyday wording rather than the technical jargon typical of the corporate pages on a brand’s website. The UK’s BBC has revamped its website’s privacy policy using this technique, as well as breaking the document into sensible sections to make it appear less daunting at first glance.

There’s a clear opportunity to help people gain a better understanding of how cookies and data sharing works, allowing them to feel and have greater control in their online experiences. The prize for doing so is that brands can foster trust with people, which is arguably the key, and sometimes missing, ingredient in the success and sustainability of the online world.