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Gedling Borough Council say they don’t let advertising firms track residents using their website for benefits advice

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Gedling Borough Council today defended the use of cookies on their website after a report by the BBC revealed some authorities were using them to target residents seeking benefit advice with adverts for credit cards and loans.

Research by the BBC Shared Data Unit found more than 950 advertising cookies – small text files that track people on the internet – were embedded in council benefits pages across the UK.

Examples of targeted adverts on benefits pages seen by the BBC include high-interest credit cards, Black Friday deals, sports cars with features for disabled people and private funeral care plans.

Many cookies are used to improve the browsing experience, typically being used for audience measurement, hosting and website design.

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But some third-party advertising cookies are used to send information to advertisers about an individual’s browsing habits.

Civic Centre in Arnold
PICTURED: Civic Centre at Arnot Hill Park

A spokesman for Gedling Borough Council told Gedling Eye that although cookies were enabled on the council website, they weren’t being used to for advertising purposes.

He said: “The cookies we use are part of Google Analytics which show how many visitors come to a page, they are not used for marketing or advertising and we do not sell, trade or rent any users data to third parties. Our cookies and privacy policy is clear about this. 

“The only pop up on our website is to promote our email newsletter service, keep me posted. The cookie is used here so the visitor can have the option never to see the pop up again for future visits. It does not store any personal information.”

The BBC investigation found that some 54% of councils hosted third-party advertising cookies on their benefits pages, with 950 in total being discovered.

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They also discovered more than two thirds of councils do not appear to ask for the correct form of consent under current privacy laws

Google has previously said that it would phase out third-party cookies within the next two years on websites accessed via its Chrome browser, in response to calls for greater privacy controls.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), an independent body set up to uphold information rights, said the setting of non-essential cookies without consent would be illegal.

The ICO has said it would look into our findings.

The advertising industry has denied using data from vulnerable residents.

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