Reuters Institute Indicates a 22% Fall in EU News Websites Third-Party Cookies

The outcome of a recent survey conducted by the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford shows that the number of tracking cookies on EU news sites has fallen by 22% since the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on May 25.

The study looked at cookie usage across EU news sites in April and subsequently in July. Experts from the Institute looked over 200 news sites overall, from seven countries —Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK.

Once the study was finished, the results showed that the biggest drop was recorded in the UK, where news sites are now using 45% less tracking cookies than before the introduction of GDPR. At the other side of the scale German news sites showed the lowest change with 6% fewer cookies in July than in the number recorded in April.

Co-author of the report Dr Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, speaking to technology news website SiliconRepublic,  said the results are important: “News sites, especially those based on advertising, are particularly dependent on third parties for many critical features ranging from monetisation to social sharing, and thus the question of how they deal with GDPR is both important and indicative of wider response.

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

A 27% drop was also recorded in news sites using tracking cookies linked to website design and optimization tools the most. There was also a 14% fall in cookie deployments among advertising and marketing tools saw a 14% fall in cookie deployments and a corresponding 9% drop in social media – the percentage of websites using Facebook and Twitter social buttons dropped from 84% to 77% from April to July.

Despite these changes the usual suspect still appear at the top of the most used tracking utilities, including Google (96pc), Facebook (70pc) and Amazon (57pc). Only 1% of EU news sites ended their use of Google cookies, 5% Facebook cookies, and 2% Amazon cookies. The study revealed that most of the EU news sites that stopped using cookies stopped using lesser known services as opposed to the more well-known groups.

Experts said that news companies are still using cookies, however a 22% fall in the number of cookies was reported across EU news sites. A tiny 1% drop was reported in the use of tracking cookies between April and July, falling just from 99% to 98%.

This shows that while some EU news sites examined what they were tracking, they chose to continue tracking users, but to a smaller extent.

The researchers stated: “We may be observing a kind of ‘housecleaning’ effect. Modern websites are highly complex and evolve over time in a path-dependent way, sometimes accumulating out-of-date features and code,” researchers said. “The introduction of GDPR may have provided news organizations with a chance to evaluate the utility of various features, including third-party services, and to remove code which is no longer of significant use or which compromises user privacy.