Even as their digital footprints expand, Internet users are spending less time reading privacy policies. Given the importance that this knowledge has on levels of confidence, companies do not seem to be doing enough to make their privacy policies understandable. Rather than remaining as the 'small print' to be accepted the first time a customer uses a digital service, the information given in these policies should be an integral part of a more transparent and ongoing customer engagement approach.
The cookie law regulates the use of the small files of data downloaded onto a user's device and subsequently sent back to the originating website by browsers to keep track of certain information. The law was intended to promote greater transparency and trust. Guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office at the time the law was implemented suggested, "If websites are open and honest about how they work … the users will be more confident about using the site and more comfortable with how websites collect and use information derived from their online behaviour".
However, according to the Data Nation survey, more than half of the UK's Internet users have never heard of the cookie law or say they don’t know anything about it. Nor have they changed their web surfing behaviour since the law was implemented. A key tenet of the cookie law has failed.
If regulators are to avoid the same pitfalls and levels of ambivalence towards future data protection legislation, the focus should be on making sure that the regulations address key areas of privacy risk and provide appropriate enforcement options. For businesses, the benefits are evident by the results of the survey: consumer attitudes and engagement depend to a large extent upon transparency and the ease with which the information in privacy policies can be understood.