It’s so easy to focus on the more disastrous aspects of Brexit that I’d like to raise the spirits of UK citizens by pointing out one possible very positive outcome. But we’re going to have to work for it, make our voices heard, and bring freedom for our nation from a pan-European menace that has plagued us for years!
So it’s no surprise that nobody actually reads the notices. I have to agree to several of these every day, and I don’t think I’ve ever read any of them. It’s a fundamental and obvious part of user interface design that if you make users mechanically perform the same task too often, they’re not going to read the text in the dialog box before clicking OK. I have about five devices on which I regularly browse the web, so I need to click the OK button on each of them, even for sites where I’ve already said I don’t object.
And here’s the thing that makes it even more stupid…
Suppose you don’t actually want cookies stored on your machine, and you say ‘no’ when the website asks if it can store them. I don’t know if there’s anybody in Europe who actually does this, but let’s pretend for a moment. How do you think the website could remember your decision? Why, by storing a cookie on your machine, of course. That’s the only way. But you’ve just said it can’t do that, so you are going to get the stupid pop-up every single time you visit that site. If you are consistent about your refusal, then almost every page on the web is going to have this annoyance every time you visit it. (That’s in addition to all the ones that can’t work at all without storing cookies, because they need them to remember important things about your logged-in session, etc.) If this legislation was meant to enhance people’s privacy protection, it also gave them a big incentive to agree to giving it away.
I presume these rules must have been designed by people who only ever visited Facebook and one or two other sites, so they assumed that your preferences could be set in just a few clicks. They hadn’t fully understood the nature of the beast they were unleashing.
In fact, most browsers allow you to change various settings on a per-website basis already, so you can decide whether or not you like cookies in general and enable them for sites you trust. People already had the ability to enforce some control of cookies for themselves. But even if you want the website to be told, for example, that you’ll allow cookies for some things and not for others, the legislation doesn’t allow that information to be transmitted to the site in place of an immediate, human, per-site interaction. And so we end up with this silliness.
It’s time to get this fixed. To whom do we write our letters? Or is one of those online petitions the best way to get started? If we demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be this way, we can set a precedent for our neighbours, and the rest of Europe will love us again at last!
Update: Some useful feedback in the Comments; see below!