Durham University: New study highlights inadequacies in online tracking

A pioneering academic from our Department of Computer Science, collaborating with computer scientists from Newcastle University, has found that some top international websites are failing to comply with current laws on privacy and tracking.

Non-compliant tracking cookies on websites
The research team observed the top 100 EU websites from a user’s point of view to see how these websites, and their apps for Andriod devices, use and present privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs).

The researchers found that only three websites allowed users to reject cookie notices as easily as they could accept.

In contrast, the practices of the other 97 websites were non-compliant with the law and did not meet the minimum requirements provided by the GDPR.

The study also revealed that it would take an average of three clicks for the user to opt out of the cookie notice on a website, and six clicks on average if the user accepts the cookie notice but later decides to opt out.

Mitigating intrusive tracking
The team is calling for website and app developers to be more transparent and to educate users about online tracking practices.

They also recommend that designers and privacy educators need to not only provide information, but to guide different user groups according to their preferences, and support accessibility of privacy-enhancing technologies within users’ preferred route.

The team emphasise that regulators should identify those needs leading to more effective and sometimes distinctive regulations.

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