Reuters Institute Reports Show 22% Decline in Third-Party Cookies on EU News Sites Post-GDPR

August 23, 2018


The result of a new study by the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford suggests that the number of tracking cookies on EU news sites has declined by 22% since the launch of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25 this year.

The study examined cookie usage across EU news sites both before the launch of the GDPR, in April, and after it became enforceable, in July 2018. Scientists from the Institute reviewed 200 news sites in total, from seven countries —Finland, Spain, Poland, Italy, Germany, France, and the UK.

After completion of the study, the results indicated that the sharpest decline was noted in the United Kingdom, where news sites are now using 45% less tracking cookies than before the launch of GDPR. At the other end of the scale, German news sites indicated the smallest change with 6% fewer cookies in July than in the number noticed in April.

Speaking to technology news website SiliconRepublic co-author Dr. Rasmus Kleis Nielsen said the results are noteworthy. “News sites, particularly those based on advertising, are mainly dependent on third parties for several critical features ranging from monetization to social sharing, and therefore the question of how they cope with GDPR is both important and indicative of wider reaction.

“We find a clear drop in the volume of third-party content, but also interesting that – with the partial exclusion of Facebook – the main ‘losers’ in terms of reach have been adtech firms outside the top three, not the largest US-based tech firms.”

A 27% decline was also noticed in news sites using tracking cookies connected to website design and optimization tools the most. There was also a 14% decline in cookie deployments among advertising and marketing tools saw a 14% decline in cookie deployments and a corresponding 9% decline in social media – the fraction of websites using Facebook and Twitter social buttons fell down from 84% to 77% from April to July.

In spite of these changes the typical suspect still emerge at the top of the most used tracking services, including Google (96pc), Facebook (70pc) and Amazon (57pc). Only 1% of EU news sites stopped using Google cookies, 5% Facebook cookies, and 2% Amazon cookies. The research found that most of the EU news sites that ceased using cookies ceased using lesser known facilities as against the more well-known companies.

Scientists said that news companies carried on to use cookies, nevertheless, a 22% decline in the number of cookies was reported across EU news sites. A tiny 1% decline was reported in the use of tracking cookies between April and July, dropping only from 99% to 98%.

This indicates that although some EU news sites studied what they were following, they chose to continue following users, but in a smaller degree.

The scientists, commenting on the release of the report, said “We might be noticing a type of ‘housecleaning’ effect. Current websites are extremely complex and develop over time in a path-dependent way, at times collecting outdated features and code,” scientists said. “The launch of GDPR might have provided news companies with an opportunity to assess the utility of different features, including third-party facilities, and to eliminate code which is no longer of substantial use or which undermines user secrecy.