More than two-thirds of the "cookies" on the UK's most popular websites are for advertising purposes, a new study has found, helping explain why some companies may be reluctant to comply with new laws coming into force next month.
From May 26 companies will need explicit permission from customers to monitor their online behaviour. This is mainly done through cookies, or small pieces of code sent between a website and the user's computer.
Some of these are necessary for running the site smoothly, for example recognising someone who has previously visited. However, about 68 per cent are placed by third parties to track behaviour and deliver targeted advertising, according to research by TRUSTe, a company which provides internet privacy tools.
It is the widespread use of these more intrusive tracking cookies that has concerned politicians and led to the introduction of new Europe-wide data protection rules. While customers are unlikely to object to cookies that help websites function, they may be alarmed at the number of purely advertising-related trackers.
"When customers find out the level of tracking that is going on, they are concerned," said Dave Deasy, vice-president of marketing at TRUSTe, referring to studies the company has done in the US.
A user typically encounters between 112 and 140 trackers during a visit to a website, according to TRUSTe.
Companies risk fines of up to £500,000 if they do not get permission for cookies but a recent study by KPMG showed that 95 per cent of UK businesses were not yet ready to comply.
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