Wigan Council remove cookies taken from website

Wigan Council has taken action to remove advertising cookies from its website, including the page with information about benefits.

Friday, 7th February 2020, 10:49 am
Updated Friday, 7th February 2020, 10:51 am
Wigan town hall where the council chambers sit

An investigation by the BBC Shared Data Unit revealed more than 950 advertising cookies - small text files that track people on the internet - embedded in benefits pages for councils around the UK.

Some 56 per cent of English councils hosted third party advertising cookies on benefits pages, with an average of five cookies found on each.

There were two cookies on Wigan Council’s home page and two on its benefits page when the study was carried out in October.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

But the council said these have since been removed.

Lesley O’Halloran, director of customer and culture, said: “We do not use any targeted advertising on the council’s websites.

“We were not aware until December there were additional ad-click cookies which were passin g information on. We identified and modified the cookies which were previously used for monitoring website usage and removed the cookie used to monitor advertising campaigns.

“We are also awaiting additional guidance from the LGA and ICO who are looking further at best practice on cookies.”

Third-party advertising cookies help companies deliver ads that are relevant to users’ browsing habits.

The BBC found examples of targeted adverts on benefits pages around the country included high-interest credit cards, Black Friday deals, sports cars with features for disabled people and private funeral care plans.

It also looked at if publishers were being given legal consent by users before cookies were placed on browsers.

A pre-ticked box is not enough, as a user must make an active decision to accept or decline cookies.

Wigan Council’s website had a popup with assumed consent

A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Councils take legal compliance seriously and are looking into their use of cookies in relation to the findings.”