News websites in Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain, and the UK are placing considerably fewer cookies without user consent post the implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). According to Reuters Institute’s (RISJ) new research, Changes in Third-Party Content on European News Websites after GDPR (July 2018), news sites now have 22% fewer third-party cookies than they did prior to GDPR. This study’s findings add to RISJ’s earlier report, Third-Party Web Content on EU News Sites: Potential Challenges and Paths to Privacy Improvement (April 2018). The April research showed news websites tend to have a higher volume of third-party content and cookies than other popular websites.
Websites often use third-party content for advertising and marketing purposes, for audience measurement, to optimize website design, to facilitate social media sharing, to recommend articles, and to host content such as videos. Many of these common third-party practices fall under the GDPR guidelines. The GDPR may require websites and third parties which collect user data to obtain user consent before processing the data collected.
Reuters Institute utilized the webXray software to identify close to 500 different companies and services associated with third-party content across 200 news sites.
- News sites hosting third-party social media content, such as sharing buttons from Facebook or Twitter, dropped significantly, from 84% in April to 77% in July.
- On average, the number of cookies from design optimization tools is down 27%, advertising and marketing cookies down 14%, and social media cookies down 9%.
- Overall Facebook, and Amazon have the largest presence across the European news sites. Aside from Google, the overall reach of the 9 other companies (Facebook, Amazon, comScore, AppNexus, Oath, Rubicon Project, AdForm, The Trade Desk and Criteo) declined in July 2018 compared to April 2018.
The findings presented here reflect site activity prior to obtaining consent. Importantly, these changes suggest that some news organizations are responding to GDPR either by obtaining consent for third-party tracking or by curbing the use of outside cookies in general. The research suggests that news sites recognized the potential risks posed by third-party content and removed it or ensured affirmative opt-in from their users.