Truste analyzed consumer attitudes to data privacy and company practices across the E.U. in its E.U. Consumer Privacy Index. The study included more than 4,000 consumers in France, Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K., and audited the cookie practices of the top 50 websites in each country as ranked by Alexa.com.
The consumers were highly aware of cookies and their function, and expect online companies to ask for permission to use them, Truste said. Close to 90 percent of the Dutch respondents were aware of cookies, while 81 percent of the British respondents, 78 percent of the Germans and 59 percent of the French said they knew about cookies, the research showed.
Awareness of the cookie directive was lower, with 79 percent of the Dutch, 63 percent of the Britons, 51 percent of the Germans and 26 percent of the French respondents aware that the directive required websites to ask for explicit consent from users to install cookies.
The research showed a significant gap between consumer expectations and the experience provided by most companies, Truste said, adding that the majority of E.U. consumers are aware of the trade-off between the provision of free online services, content and games, and online targeting by advertisers.
Sites warning about their cookie use, in addition to complying with the law, are likely to encourage, rather than discourage, visitors, according to Truste's survey. It found that 41 percent of European Internet users plan only to visit sites that comply with the directive by announcing their use of tracking cookies, while in even the most suspicious of countries, France, fewer than 36 percent will not visit websites because of concerns about their privacy that cookie use might provoke.