The European Parliament has seen sense and rejected its earlier opt-in amendment for cookies that would have wreaked havoc amongst internet users by requiring repeated pop-up windows or other intrusive virtual labels upon every web page visited by a user. (Full details can be found here.)

The EU was trying to protect or alert consumers from tracking systems they may or may not know they are party to, but perhaps in a misguided way under the original plans. Commentators were concerned the legislation on cookies would have had a dramatic effect on some forms of online marketing. Worst hit could have been affiliate marketing, as both affiliates and affiliate networks heavily rely on cookies to identify where a customer is referred from and in most cases apportion commissions correctly.

A small number of people feared EU cookie legislation could have caused the death of affiliate marketing

Although I understand these concerns and was pleased to hear that web users will not have to opt in to every single cookie, I believe the EU’s actions have given rise to an important debate about their future.

As much as cookies play an integral role in e-commerce and analytics, they are not entirely reliable. They can be deleted or overwritten by other sites and there has even been speculation about ‘super cookies’ which merchants and networks may attribute sales to even if they were not the last cookies dropped.

To counteract such issues, many affiliate networks such as Paid on Results, Affiliate Window and Webgains already employ other means of tracking affiliate transactions. In recent research, Paid on Results estimated that at least 10% of affiliate sales are lost through traditional cookie tracking methods.

A while back Affiliate Future announced their new patented tracking technology , VeraciTag™, which they say offers an alternative, more accurate tracking solution to cookies, and works by storing anonymous tracking information in the web browser of the user’s computer meaning the tags cannot be blocked, as cookies can and consumer privacy is protected. At the same time, they claim affiliates should benefit from an increased number of tracked sales, and so higher earnings.

All of the above indicates that, although many people were concerned that the new EU legislation could have made some Internet businesses redundant, it appears that the innovative and constantly evolving nature of the Internet is already phasing out traditional cookie tracking methods.

It would have been interesting to see what effect, if any, the EU’s cookie ruling would have had on the Internet community and whether it would have been a major catastrophe as some people feared or just a storm in a teacup.

What do you think? Please feel free to add your comments below or email me at sinead [at] azam.net with your thoughts on the matter.
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