Rejecting Cookies May Get Easier

The choice between blindly accepting cookies and going through complex settings menus could soon be over. At least that’s what researchers at the University of Wisconsin say.

They’ve developed an automated tool that aims to reject all non-essential cookies when you first visit a site.

In principle, such a tool should be totally unnecessary. The legislation that leads sites to display cookie consent banners (most notably Europe’s GDPR) says sites should make it just as easy to reject cookies as to accept them. (Geeks Are Sexy does this with one-click options for both “Agree” and “Disagree”.)

In reality, many sites are set up so that a single click accepts cookies while rejecting them involves going through multiple screens. The most extreme require users to manually uncheck a box for every cookie.

The researchers have developed an automated tool that could eventually be a browser extension. It works by using machine learning to recognise different cookie screens and the sequence of clicks required to reject non-essential cookies.

They say the current version can correctly identify the required sequence and automatically carry it out on 91 percent of the sites they tested. Many of the sites where the tool “failed” were because it was intentionally limited to 256 steps and this proved insufficient to make all the required settings changes.

The researchers also found that even when scheduling a one-second delay between each automated “click”, it still reduced the total time taken by an average of 58 percent compared with humans completing the process.


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