Average UK Website Has 14 Tracking Cookies

A new study has emerged which throws some disturbing light on the extent of tracking cookies used on UK websites, as well as concerns regarding site privacy policies.

Truste has released the first UK Website Edition of its Privacy Index Series, and the report indicates that no less than 14 tracking cookies are present on each page of the top 50 UK websites. Some 68 per cent of these are deployed by third-parties, not the site owner.

That means that in an average session on a top UK site, Truste estimates that a typical surfer will encounter between 112 and 140 trackers - quite a mind boggling figure.

The research has been published ahead of the deadline for compliance with the EU e-Privacy Directive, later next month, which introduces tighter controls on privacy and tracking cookies.

Firms will have to obtain the surfer's consent to store information via cookies, but the vast majority of websites have yet to get their house in order in this respect - however, they'll have to act fast.

Truste also warned on overly complex privacy policies, with the average UK site policy coming in at 2,300 words - half the length of the Magna Carta, the firm notes (and much less than half as interesting).

Ninety-six per cent of websites had a privacy policy in place, but only 16 per cent had a summary that made it easy for surfers to digest. A third of websites disclosed that they automatically shared user data with third parties for commercial purposes.

Chris Babel, CEO of TRUSTe, commented: "Clearly more work needs to be done to deliver shorter, more accessible privacy notices that can be easily understood by consumers so that they can make informed choices around their personal information.

"Companies with an online presence in the EU are readying their compliance strategies for the Cookie Directive and our Privacy Index shows that one of their first steps should be measuring and understanding the true scope of trackers on their sites."