Cookie wall: does the Cnil offer a simple reprieve from the Internet advertising model?

The CNIL has published criteria for evaluating the legality of “cookie walls”, which collect consent to advertising tracking. What impact on online advertising models and revenues?

This development of the CNIL was expected of all companies on the web! In particular publishers who are remunerated for all or part of their income through advertising: media, e-merchants, social networksplatforms… The CNIL has just published criteria for evaluating the legality of “cookie walls”, these windows which collect the consent of Internet users to be the subject of advertising tracking in order to display them personalized advertisements .

Consent and the internet business model are closely linked

A strategic subject both the question of consent and that of business model of the Internet are now intimately linked. It is indeed the whole model of free information on the Internet and indirectly the ability of advertisers to reach their customers that are directly at stake.

Since the entry into force of GDPR in 2018 which imposed consent to the collection of personal data, the rules of the game have changed. Anxious to preserve their economic viability, the publishers have applied the following rule: “those who do not play the game (of advertising tracking) do not have access in return to the information or the service offered”. A practice that the CNIL had tried to prohibit before the Council of State censured it in 2020 an attack on “the freedom to do business and to contract”, underlining the possibility opened up by the EDPS, the European grouping of authorities data control, to offer access for a financial consideration, ie a subscription. Between a constrained model of universal access to information which jeopardized their economic balance and the need to protect personal data of consumers through active consent, the web has therefore adapted by offering the payment alternative, the paywall. Behind the Webedia group (Allo Ciné,, many press publishers have also followed suit.

Legal uncertainty and decline in monetized traffic

It is in this context of legal uncertainty and threat to their economic model that companies present on the web have tested different options to comply, maintain their revenues, and mitigate the deleterious effects of consent fatigue.

These publishers have at least felt the wind blowing: erosion of monetized traffic with a stabilized consent rate around 70%, downward revision of the number of third-party advertising partners, increase in compliance costs, difficulty in monetizing non-consented inventories and finally, logically, a drop of around 20% to 50% in click-through rates (CPM) sources of revenue for publishers, according to a study by Mind Media.

But with the announced end of third-party cookies, those that provide advertising tracking, publishers also know that they are managing a transitional phase before the emergence of technologies that better or even completely preserve the privacy of Internet users. In addition to preserving the privacy of Internet users, these technologies also target the weariness caused by these repetitive windows of consent.

The threat of a maximalist vision of consent

If the latest update from the CNIL therefore finally confirms the principle of the “cookie wall”, a certain relief for publishers, it does not, however, clarify the evolution of the regulatory framework for consent to advertising tracking in which also these new approaches to protecting privacy, a framework which also depends on another text under review in Brussels: the E-privacy regulation. For all data that is a priori non-personal, such as an anonymized browsing history, it is indeed the text that would apply. Formerly restricted to the field of telecom operators, some European parliamentarians have a very extensive future for it… Already weakened, the free Internet model would once again be destabilized, rendering certain innovation models obsolete, depriving part of the population free access to information and drastically reducing the ability of brands to engage with their customers. Let’s bet that European digital will have a different face!

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Cookie wall: does the Cnil offer a simple reprieve from the Internet advertising model?

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