In a recent column, Tracey Capen posits the reason so many sites are displaying the “This site uses cookies. Click ‘okay’ to continue” banner is because of Advertising—specifically because many people use ad-blockers so the advertisers want to still be able to track you.


Cookies in the EU

He almost accidentally mentions the actual reason for these banners: EU Regulations on privacy. Specifically, the regs state that websites must notify visitors before the site places cookies on the visitor’s browser, AND give them an option to opt out before that happens.

English: Tor Logo
(credit: Wikipedia)

So why do we in the non-EU part of the world see these banners? Because it is simply easier to display the banner to everyone, rather than by attempting to determine if the visitor is in the EU and displaying the banner IFF they are.

There are a myriad of ways to mask one’s location, such as using the TOR network, so the risks of failing to show the banner (and getting fined) versus just displaying it to everyone is a no-brainer.

But what about Advertisements?

Ads—and their ad-delivery network—use cookies in a variety of ways. Advertisers are charged by the networks for impressions (number of people to whom the network delivers the ad or CPM) and for the number of people who click on the ad (clickthroughs). The latter is more valuable to the advertiser and thus the networks charge more.

The ads aren’t directly loaded on the page without the network because there needs to be a system that counts the number of impressions, rotates multiple ads in the page location, and stops showing an ad when the ad’s CPM is exhausted. If an advertiser pays for 5,000 CPM, once 5,000,000 visitors visit the page, the next visitor will not see that ad.

When an adblocker runs it does at least one of two things: it blocks the ad code or (more likely) it blocks the ad delivery network code. What this means is the visitor’s browser doesn’t even request the code from the server; NOTHING from that server is requested. No code means the ad network can’t run and deliver the ads. Also, without a request, there is no cookie.

Even if somehow the site displayed the banner (“please accept our marketing/advertising cookie” Capen imagines them saying), the cookie can’t be added because there is no cookie. There is no ad network that loads. There is no ad to display.