22% Less Third-Party Cookies on EU News Sites Post-GDPR

The Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford conducted a study and found that there has been a 22% decrease in the number of tracking cookies on EU news sites since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was implemented on May 25, 2018.

The study reviewed cookie usage across the EU news sites before the implementation of the GDPR, in April, and after its enforcement, in July 2018. Researchers from the Institute examined a total of 200 news sites, from seven countries, namely Finland, France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Spain, and the UK.

Following the completion of the study, the results revealed that the most notable decrease was recorded in the UK, where news sites are currently using 45% fewer tracking cookies compared to before the compliance date of GDPR. At the other end of the scale, German news sites showed the smallest change with 6% fewer cookies in July than the number found in April.

Dr. Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, co-author of the technology news website SiliconRepublic, said the study results are significant. News sites are specifically dependent on third parties such as advertisers for many crucial features such as monetization and social sharing. How these sites manage GDPR is indicative of a wider response. With an obvious decline in the volume of third-party content, the reach of adtech companies has clearly suffered, although not the top three US-based tech firms.

The following news sites similarly had a corresponding decrease in the use of tracking cookies:

  • Sites related to website design and optimization tools – 27% decrease
  • Sites related to advertising and marketing tools – 14% drop in cookie use
  • Websites using Facebook and Twitter social buttons fell by 9% from 84% in April to 77% in July

In spite of these shifts, the normal suspects still show up at the top of the most utilized tracking services, such as Google (96pc), Facebook (70pc) and Amazon (57pc). Only 1% of EU news sites ceased utilizing Google cookies, 5% stopped using Facebook cookies, and 2% stopped using Amazon cookies. The study found that the majority of the EU news sites that ceased utilizing cookies stopped utilizing lesser known services in contrast to the more well-known organizations.

News organizations, on the other hand, continued to use cookies; however, a 22% drop in the number of cookies was reported across EU news sites. A 1% drop was reported in the use of tracking cookies from April to July, falling from 99% to 98%.

This shows that while many EU news sites examined what they were tracking, they chose to go on tracking users, albeit to a smaller degree.

The researchers commented on the report saying has been a kind of ‘housecleaning’ effect. Modern websites are extremely complex and develop with time in a path-dependent way, at over time accumulate out-of-date features and code. The introduction of GDPR has meant news organizations have had to assess the utility of different features, such as third-party services, and eliminate code that is not essential and could endanger user privacy.