Annoyed by those cookie warnings?

…spread your anger!

I’m sure you know the warnings I’m talking about – at least you do if you’re in the European Union. Warnings that appear almost every time you look at a new page on the web, telling you that the site uses cookies, generally telling you that if you continue into the site, you’re accepting they’re going to put cookies on your computer.

Annoying, aren’t they? Patronising, perhaps? Pedantic? Pointless?

Yes, all of the above. The whole thing’s a bit silly, really. As many people who visit this blog probably realise, they’re appearing as a result of a bit of European law – often referred to as the ‘cookies directive’, but more accurately an update to the e-privacy directive (the Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications). An annoying piece of legislation, one which even before it was passed in 2009 had been subject to pretty intense criticism – and rightly so. The drafters of the legislation deserve a great deal of criticism and a good deal of anger – it’s a bit of a pig’s ear, to be frank. So should the politicians and bureaucrats who brought it into action. Typical European busybodies, I’ve heard it said. They want to control everything we do…

…and yet, deserving though they are of a lot of criticism, they’re not the only ones who should bear the brunt of the anger, of the annoyance. Legislation, even poorly drafted and misguided legislation, doesn’t emerge in a vacuum. That’s particularly true in the case of the cookies directive – it emerged, as most law does, because there was a problem. In this case, the problem was that our privacy was being invaded, persistently and on a large scale, particularly by those involved in the online advertising industry.

Those who follow my blog may have heard me write before about Phorm, perhaps the most invasive and offensive of the behavioural advertisers, whose systems were designed to intercept your entire internet activity, track you and profile you, so as to be able to target advertisements at you. Their activities were hugely invasive of privacy – so much so that the outrage that grew about it played a key part in forcing them to abandon their business – and yet the online advertising industry bodies supported them throughout and did their very best to discourage any kind of investigation into their activities.

The cookies directive – and all those annoying warnings – has its origins in that story. Whilst privacy advocates investigated and European politicians and bureaucrats tried to first of all find out what was happening and then try to work out some kind of solution, what they got from the industry was characterised by denial, obfuscation and obstruction. Either there wasn’t a problem at all, or it would be best solved by self-regulation. Neither of those were true – and the people, politicians and bureaucrats knew it. Their equivalents in the US know it too, which is why they’re still trying to get the ‘Do Not Track’ initiative off the ground – and in the US they’re receiving the same kind of resistance as they got in Europe.

Regulators don’t like being fobbed off. They don’t like being treated without respect, or told they’re being foolish – it’s not the best way to get useful, helpful and productive regulation. Instead, it’s likely to bring about bad law – stuff like the cookies directive. Yes, it’s a stupid law – but it would never have been brought into action if the online advertisers had admitted that there was a problem, and at least tried to do something about it. If they’d shown some degree of understanding first of all that people were upset, secondly that they had a reason to be upset, and thirdly that they should do something about it, then they might have been able to head off the legislative mess that has resulted. They didn’t.

It’s not an unusual story – there are parallels with the way the newspaper industry’s far-from effective self-regulation led to the Leveson Inquiry, and may end up in over-the-top regulation of the press. If you behave badly, and continue to behave badly even when people complain, things like that happen…. and you can’t just blame the regulators.

In the case of the cookies directive – and all those annoying warnings – the online advertising industry should take their share of your annoyance and anger…..

49 thoughts on “Annoyed by those cookie warnings?

    • TBH i would just say ignore the directive and stop adding the warnings to your website. if everyone openly refuses to do it i doubt the government will have the manpower money or reason to actually try enforcing it.

      • are you serious? haha it doesnt cost a lot of money to send you a bill and nearly no manpower as if there aren’t any more complex situations a government needs to manage

  1. I’ve installed Adblock Plus on Firefox. You can add filters to block all the common Cookie Warnings – I rarely see them now.

  2. So what can we do to stop useless controlling government from invading our lives. Just adding filters will not stop the real problem, which is government… They will simply find something else even more annoying…

    • Governments do what governments do… we have to manage them, and cope with them. That’s what the point of the post was, really – don’t just ignore them, or stick two fingers up at them (as the advertising industry effectively did) because then they behave even more foolishly than before. If the advertising industry had been cleverer, it would never have happened.

  3. I think that they are only useful if they offer cookie settings besides just informing (like some sites do).
    However, if you clear your cookies once, you’ll hate those too…

  4. It’s one of things that came with such a delay which is unbelievable… For years every website and article covinced that cookies are harmless, now imagine if you are a non-expert and you are bombarded by messages on every site with cookie warnings…

    It’s one of those things that legislations and governments are falling short (yet again). I was at the ship safety sector and was overly annoyed at same point with all the stupid legislations that had nothing to do with safety but were merely adding up to paper work. In the end it 99% stupid details for retarded people (sorry to say that, but you get my point) and 1% real safety.

    If they are to warn us with popups for the cookies, then they have to warn us for info collected and stored on db (just like cookies do) on our visits and so on. If Facebook was to warn about every such feature you would have to spend 3 hours closing popups…

    • Yes, that’s pretty much spot on for me – the law doesn’t help the people who need the help, and hinders pretty much everyone. It’s up for review, apparently, so we’ll see if it makes a difference. Meanwhile, Firefox has made blocking of third party cookies ‘on’ by default, which probably makes far more difference than the law….

      • The stupid thing is that you will still get the stupid cookie warnings even though your browser would block cookies.
        I wish that instead of asking 100 million sites to add a cookie warning, incur millions of hours of work and get 100 million different designs and wording, they would ask the few browser makers to add a single warning with instructions on how to disable cookies, and a small icon which shows whether the current site uses cookies.
        But anyway, people should NOT have to worry about cookies and have to micro manage them.

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  6. Since these messages began appearing, I’ve actually only been using British websites as a last resort, all to do with this EU law. I support the EU, and many non-EU supporters still support this law, which I don’t.

  7. In my country, England, we call a Bhscuit a Biscuit…..in the so called good old USA they go by the name of ‘Cookie’…….in the UK thats a slang but friendly name of someone named COOK, or COOKE….so America, stuff your ‘cookies’m you know whhere…..and do try not to ‘spoil’ the best language on Earth with your impertinence!

  8. Only a tiny number of complaints have been made about cookies, far more have been made about instrusive cookie banners. I say we should all just collectively ignore this rule. Its silly.

  9. This law isn’t being enforced – if you own a website in the EU – just ignore it. They will either ignore you totally or at worst send you a letter.

    Mass scale disobedience will surely lead to this ridiculous spamming law being removed.

    Has it actually helped 1 person? Certainly not. What actionable steps can you take when you see it? If you want to be online you have to accept it – it’s completely pointless.

    People don’t even see this notice anymore – in the same way people don’t see banner ads. I use this cookie warning filter list in Ad Block Plus: http://prebake.eu

    Works well.

  10. Man, am I ever sick of the Roman Catholic E.U. and its daily interference in our lives. They even have a regulation for the mounting of the gas meter in my kitchen cupboard, but I had the mounting removed, so take a hike, M.E.P.s.

  11. Thank you EU, an unnecessary click to close a cookie bar at nearly every website you visit. Pointless. Did no one tell them you can just set your browser to reject cookies? Stupid, stupid bureaucracy.

  12. This is so stupid! These messages are so pointless and just won’t stop. I have the feeling that there are websites that show them every time, even though I checked them a day ago.

    It’s like… “Warning: If you drive a car, there is a chance that you die in a horrific traffic accident. Please confirm to start the engine!”

  13. how much did advertising industry to mozilla to get them to break the ‘remember this for all cookies from this site’ option on ask me every time cookie handlers. It used to be one dialog per cookie ‘family’ when going to a new site. Now each individual cookie and update to said cookie, sometimes hundreds of dialogs from the same cookie, has its own window with no way to group them together. Blatant play to get people to stop blocking ad cookies while accepting session cookies.

  14. Read all the comments after the article.
    I also agree that the cookie info banner is stupid, I’m no expert but I’d think there is no one alive who uses the web that is NOT aware that cookies are put on your computer by EVERY site you visit, sometimes a huge quantity of them.
    A law should be used to STOP a detrimental practice not warn of it and despite what any producer says cookies just do not benifit the recipient! They are entirely for the producer to gain an advantage in selling us something.
    IF a manufacturer wishes to know if I’ve interacted with a site then up to him to use his own resources to record it, not mine.
    I personally have my browser set to clear all cookies every single time I close it. It’s great I can visit every site like it’s a first visit, not be directed anywhere, even the ones you have to log onto to use I keep up with my passwords so I can register with it again.
    If using Crome you can’t let it store any passwords, Google is a great serch engine but damn intrusive and I’m afraid MS with Edge is/has gone the same way as that just doesn’t have the same controls as IE did.

    It all sort of started when we let credit rating companies actually control our financial status, THEY SELL what they deem to be correct about our finacial status, charge us to look at what they sell, charge us to look at what they sell and if they don’t agree it’s wrong don’t change it.
    Had a zero credit rating for years, exist fine, don’t use and don’t want to use credit as that just makes the rich richer and me poorer, a hard lesson.

    What we need is an OS that seals itself in a separate partition, just puts a list up on “C” for programs to put their wish list of resources on not allow them to mess with how the OS works.
    Our browser should do the same so it does NOTHING we, the owner, says it can and definitely not let some website start messing with TAB orders, the page history, what is shown on that page.
    You follow some interesting thread and wham, inadvertantly click on a webpage somewhere inocent and it’s a button and you’ve lost where you were and are somewhere completely unwanted.

    So it is a stupid law as it achieve nothing and just to be contentious, they should have just banned advertising, save us all a lot of money and we’d still buy what we wanted and not have to wade through all the adverts, just seek out info on a product we wanted to look at.
    Bliss, no TV adverts, spend the money saved on our choice of TV channel and they would have to make them better as we would pay for them direct instead of via a third party.
    No more junk mail, paper or electronic and before you say DEAD easy to police as you just fine the product maker not the advertiser as he is somewhere you can’t reach but if his product is advertised then he has to supply it so you’ve got him.

  15. There are three kinds of idiots:

    1. Those who click on ads on Youtube videos
    2. Those who force websites to have a “cookie warning”
    3. Owners of websites who baaaaaa to it.

    I have a website in the Europeon Onion and even if it may be against the “law” I do not have the idiotic cookie warning on it as I don’t want to lose even more sales in this screwed up e-con-omy.

    There also are those who post the most annoying Google recaptcha or caotcha (capture? gotcha?) making everyone feel sorry that they are not robots (yet). Yeah folks, we will soon be replaced by robots! Baaaaaaa!

    • I wanted to create a page for people to get in touch. I looked into PHP contact forms, and it would need a captcha. I had some work to do.

      Then I had a different idea. Instead,I just gave out my email address on the page. Now publishing your email address is sure to get you plenty of spam. So I used a special address, and beneath the address, instructed all visitors to include a particular “magic” word in the subject. Then I modified my email rules to discard all emails except those that contain the “magic word” in the topic.

      It didn’t take me long to set it up. No ugly forms, heavy libraries, no having visitors go through captcha tests.

      You want to beat bots? Be creative, that’s one thing they are not.

  16. These pop ups are So frigging Annoying, if your accessing the site then (duh) your going to accept anything they say to either read the article or order the goods. What’s more annoying are agreeing and pressing the accept button only to find it then freezes anyway on most sites because they are still loading all the other crap adverts that are required to pay for the site in the first place. This is when I loose interest and close the site, On one or two occasions I’ve pressed no! and nowt happens anyhoo… We need one button in our settings to accept the buggers automatically. PLEASE

  17. I agree in your statement regarding pointless, silly cookie confirmations.
    But I dont think your conclusion is right.
    Its not the ad industrie’s fault or lack of cleverness. They do what they are supposed to do.
    Its in fact the regulators and all others would are somehow responsilble for political decisions.
    They are NOT doing what they’re ought to do. They’re not doing their work well.
    You say, the industrie does not support them, being obstructive and ignorant. Of course they are.
    And that’s normal. Same with the bank that are only interested in making as much profit as possible. Of course they are. But that lays in their nature. You cannot expect them to change or regulate themselfes.
    This has do be done by the politicians and the regulators. And they need to get all support they need to do their job well. And we need to protect them – the regulators et al. – to not get corrupted.
    Their is NO excuse for the regulators to do such a bad job, except maybe a lack of means like money and other support from the officials in order to obtain the know-how needed to make intelligent laws and regulations.

  18. The cookie warning should be implemented in the browser not on 100 million sites.
    – It spares thousands or millions of hours of work.
    – Much better user experience through a single unified warning and then just discrete consistent reminders for every affected site.
    – If you disable cookies in your browser then you dont needlessly get the warnings.

    After all its the browsers that allow cookies to be stored.

    This would be about a million times more efficient.

    Annoying users is always a self defeating strategy in the end.

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