Abstract. Privacy regulations have led to many websites showing cookie banners to their users. Usually, cookie banners present the user with the option to “accept” or “reject” cookies. Recently, a new form of paywall-like cookie banner has taken hold on the Web, giving users the option to either accept cookies (and consequently user tracking) or buy a paid subscription for a tracking-free website experience. In this paper, we perform the first completely automated analysis of cookiewalls, i.e., cookie banners acting as a paywall. We find cookiewalls on 0.6% of all queried 45k websites. Moreover, cookiewalls are deployed to a large degree on European websites, e.g., for Germany we see cookiewalls on 8.5% of top 1k websites. Additionally, websites using cookiewalls send 6.4 times more third-party cookies and 42 times more tracking cookies to visitors, compared to regular cookie banner websites. We also uncover two large Subscription Management Platforms used on hundreds of websites, which provide website operators with easy-to-setup cookiewall solutions. Finally, we plan to publish tools, data, and code to foster reproducibility and further studies.
Abstract. Web cookies have been the subject of many research studies over the last few years. However, most existing research does not consider multiple crucial perspectives that can influence the cookie landscape, such as the client’s location, the impact of cookie banner interaction, and from which operating system a website is being visited. In this paper, we conduct a comprehensive measurement study to analyze the cookie landscape for Tranco top-10k websites from different geographic locations and analyze multiple different perspectives. One important factor which influences cookies is the use of cookie banners. We develop a tool, BannerClick , to automatically detect and interact with cookie banners with an accuracy of 99% and 96%, respectively. We find banners to be 56% more prevalent when visiting websites from within the EU region. Moreover, we analyze the effect of banner interaction on different types of cookies (i.e., first-party, third-party, and tracking). For instance, we observe that websites send, on average, 5.5× more third-party cookies after clicking “accept”, underlining that it is critical to interact with banners when performing Web measurements. Additionally, we analyze statistical consistency, evaluate the widespread deployment of consent management platforms, compare landing to inner pages, and assess the impact of visiting a website on a desktop compared to a mobile phone. Our study highlights that all of these factors substantially impact the cookie landscape, and thus a multi-perspective approach should be taken when performing Web measurement studies.
We publish data and scripts to reproduce our analysis at the Open Research Data Repository of the Max Planck Society to guarantee long-term availability.
Dataset DOI. (IMC paper) 10.17617/3.TREBZR
Dataset DOI. (PAM paper) 10.17617/3.1MUYFX
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