The Cookie Law in Sweden – Self regulation committee started by the IAB

The Swedish arm of the European Trade Association of the Digital and Interactive Marketing Industry (IAB) has created a self regulating committee in response to the introduction of the new Swedish law ‘Better Rules for Electronic Communication.

This law is a response to the recent EU directive which places tough standards on the use of cookies and has serious implications for, for example, the effectiveness of  cookie based tools such as Google Analytics and the various forms of online advertising.

The self regulating committee has created a group with members including Adform, Eniro, Google, Microsoft, Specific Media, Trade Doubler, IAB – Sweden, Swedish Chamber of Commerce, RO, Sveriges Annonsörer, Sveriges Mediebyråer, TU, and Sveriges Marknadsförbund/Näringslivets delegation för Marknadsätt (NDM).

The project is lead by Henrik Nilsson, a lawyer, and I strongly recommend reading  through the presentation he made at the recent IAB conference in Stockholm a few weeks ago, made around the time the new Swedish law was voted in. It’s in Swedish – and gives a background to the cookie law and the self regulating project.

The objective of this project is to create a best practice for the use of cookies. The project aims to deliver a best practice guide in July this year. Hopefully we’ll be seeing updates on the IAB website, you can also follow their legal arm on twitter here.

I work in the Higher Education sector, which is in the not for profit category and is not so well represented in the IAB project- I hope this will change, and I’m happy to say they seem very receptive to getting in other opinions and input. My concern is that limiting the use of cookie based analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, will detrimentally effect the ability  for organisations, such as the university I work for, to effectively manage and optimise their digital marketing activities.

To get a quick overview of the fallout from the EU law (allbeit from a mostly UK perspective) use the search ‘EU cookie‘ in twitter. I recommend checking out Brian Clifton‘s post on the impact of this new directive on the use of Google Analytics and this post, by Paul Hatcher, for a good calm overview – though there is a plethora of posts on this subject out there now.

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Cookie Killer – New EU Directive on Cookies and Privacy – New Swedish Law

New privacy laws could impact on our ability to gather user data, potentially restricting the use of tools like Google Analytics.

The New EU Law

The EU will soon be enforcing a new directive which directly addresses the way cookies can be used – it’s a development of the EU’s ePrivacy directive. How will it affect your website? Well, no one seems to be totally clear but there’s certainly a ton of, what seems to be, well founded gloom.
Essentially the law requires website owners to get consent from website visitors to record and store information about them :

site owners need to get an explicit opt-in in order to deploy practically any cookie” – Wired

Photo from Jim Linwood - Creative Commons Licence - http://bit.ly/j7haTF

Sweden’s New Law ‘Bättre Regler för Elektroniska Kommunikationer’ – A response to the EU law

In a few day’s time the Swedish Government will be voting on a new law ‘Bättre regler för elektroniska kommunikationer’ which will enforce the EU law.

Using my second language with a legal document is not a happy combination, but cookies are under the spotlight in this new law. For example, page 317 of the law says:

“Abonnenten eller användaren ska inte längre bara ges tillfälle att hindra lagring eller åtkomst, utan måste lämna sitt samtycke till åtgärden”

This sounds like the opt-in which the Wired Article, and several other commentators have described (Techcrunch have come out of the corner fighting on this one ‘Stupid EU Law‘). However, the Swedish law just does not seem clear enough.

“Vissa menar att samtycket måste inhämtas innan man besöker själva hemsidan, det vill säga i praktiken kommer man till en ”för-sida” där informationen om cookies ges till den enskilda användare som får godkänna dessa för att sedan länkas vidare till själva hemsidan.”: Ny lag för Cookies – Mathias Berggren

The EU law states that cookie use is acceptable where it is absolutely mission critical, but opinions will no doubt vary on what is critical.

Google Analytics – Can we still use it?

My sector, and many others, rely on using 1st party cookies to gather data on what our visitors do on our websites. This enables us to optimize the user experience – for a content rich website, like a university website, it’s a vital tool. This new law could very well prevent the use of Google Analytics, and thus leave a potential gap in our ability to understand how people use our websites.

There’s discussion about this on the Google Analytics forum.

Our search optimization efforts, measurement of YouTube success and use of adwords would, presumably, also be impacted. So, can we still use Google Analytics?  It would be nice to get some kind of  measured response from e-delagationen or Datainspketion (who have previously commented on the use of Google Analytics).

In the UK, the Information Commissioners Office’s guidelines do not include the use of cookies to gather statistical data as sufficiently mission critical to allow their use, without first getting consent.

A Final Word

Several commentators consider this law simply to be unworkable, as to police it would be extremely difficult. Germany has banned Google Analytics, but do German sites continue to use it? It would be interesting to find out how such a ban actually works in practice.  This law could be a massive blow to our ability to manage websites, a blanket  enforcement of ‘do not track’ (or ‘do not track without consent’) could result in some bizarre user experiences with opt in messages plastering websites. Alternatives do exist when it comes to data collection, it’s true, and making sure we only collect aggregate data could defuse privacy issues at a stroke.

Let’s see where this lands – Don’t Panic.

I’ll be at the Google Analytics conference in Stockholm tomorrow, no doubt more light will be shed on this subject there.

Please feel free to leave comments on the new law, and particularly the Swedish law – be nice to get a lawyers input on this.

Monthly Review: Swedish Universities and Social Media – Facebook

My last post (which shamefully was over a month ago) compared a range of Facebook pages from Swedish higher education. I thought it would be useful to repeat the review, to see what has changed and who is growing.

Like the last post, I’ve looked at total number of likes, number of posts by friends of the page and the number of posts from the page itself. This time, however, I’ve been able to add a % change to the number of likes compared to last month’s data.  This time around I’ve dispensed with looking at discussion posts and photographs – sorry, way to tedious.

The most recent data were collected on April 29th. The previous data were collected on March 20th.

Likes – Swedish University Facebook Pages, ranked by total likes.

The percentage in brackets is the percentage increase compared to a month ago. Bold numbers emphasise increases of more than 10%.

Linköping Universitet 6786 (4%)
Lund University 6154 (425%)
Linne Universitet 4683(2%)
Umeå Universitet 4282 (9%)
Stockholm University 4056 (7%)
Umeå University 3879 (4%)
Uppsala Universitet 3002 (8%)
Högskolan I Borås 2838 (2%)
Jönköping University 2752 (5%)
SLU 2566 (3%)
Lunds Universitet 2459 (88%)
Chalmers University of Technology 2220
Stockholm school of Economics 2052 (3%)
Högskolan Väst 1622 (5%)
Högskolan i Halmstad 1586 (5%)
Karolinska Institutet 1560 (14%)
Mälardalens Högskola 1417 (12%)
Stockholms universitet 1191 (8%)
KTH 1171
Örebro Universitet 1118
Malmö University 967 (20%)
Malmö Högskola 966 (12%)
Karlstads Universitet 940 (7%)
Royal Institute of Art 889 (7%)
Uppsala University 683 (121%)
Högskola Dalarna 514 (6%)
BTH 499 (10%)
Högskolan Kristianstad 300 (41%)

So, without doubt, the biggest climber this month is Lund University. A massive 400% plus growth from 1172 fans to over 6000. Shortly after I published my last post on this subject the university managed to get ownership of a page, called Lund University, over which they had no administration rights – as a result, they inherited a large number of new friends to their own page and went from just over a 1000 friends to in excess of 6000.

Other big movers include Uppsala University, Högskolan Kristianstad, Lunds universitet, Malmö University and Karolinska Institutet.

Posts – Swedish University Facebook Pages, ranked by posts made by the page’s friends.

The posts reported here are original posts left by the page’s friends, rather than the total number of comments. This is the total number of posts, counted from November 2010.  The percentage is the change from the last reported figure, in my previous post. Bold numbers indicate increases over 50%.

Malmö University 212 (39%)
KTH 113 (1030%)
Umeå universitet 110 (24%)
Lund University 98 (127%)
Lunds Universitet 90 (120%)
Linne Universitet 89 (37%)
Linköping Universitet 84 (42%)
Högskolan i Borås 73 (40%)
Uppsala Universitet 67 (56%)
Jönköping University 55 (83%)
Malmö Högskola 54 (38%)
Mälardalans Högskola (92%)
Karlstads Universitet 42 (68%)
SLU 38 (27%)
Högskolan Dalarna 16 (60%)
Karolinska Institute 12 (100%)
BTH 12 (50%)
Högskolan Väst 10 (66%)

Now, the percentage change is not an apples and apples comparison – last month’s figures were from November ‘10 up to March ‘11. So I’m comparing 4 months worth of posting against a month. What this does mean is that significant change here suggests something is really going on at the page.  And that definitely is the case with the KTH page; a series of competitions led to an enormous increase in posts from the page’s friends in the last month.

Worth pointing out that 6 universities do not allow page friends to post, though they all allow comments to be left.

Posts – Swedish University Facebook Pages, ranked by posts made by the page

This is the amount of posts, made by the page owners, since November 2010.

Uppsala Universitet 312
Högskolan I Borås 234
Stockholm University 210
BTH 196
Umeå Universitet 188
Karlstads Universitet 160
Royal Institute of Art 144
Högskolan I Halmstad 123
KTH 119
Linne Universitet 117
Malmö Högskola 114
Malmö University 111
Umeå University 108
Lunds Universitet 97
Mälardalans Högskola 89
Linköping Universitet 89
Stockholms universitet 84
Högskolan Väst 82
SLU 77
Stockholm School of Economics 72
Uppsala University 69
Karolinksa Insitutet 67
Lund University 54
Jönköping University 53
Chalmers University of Technology 20
Högskolan Kristianstad 18
Högskolan Dalarna 17

There’s clearly a massive range in the way pages are being to used to communicate and engage, as the above numbers suggest. Next month, I’ll be able to present an exact month vs month change report for these pages, which is how I hope to continue this into the future.

Incidentally, I took a quick look and saw that almost all of these universities are advertising the presence of their Facebook pages on their home pages. What’s interesting is the variety of ways in which they are presented, some have a very clear and prominent call to action, others a more subdued approach – but that’s a blog post for another day!

If there’s data missing, or something which looks wrong, please let me know thanks.