BRUSSELS: Some 83% of consumers in Western Europe believe brands should get their permission before tracking them on the web, an area where many firms are falling short, new figures show.

TRUSTe, the data privacy group, and Ipsos MORI, the research provider, surveyed 4,041 people across France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, and assessed 200 leading websites from these nations.

Overall, a 71% majority of French contributors were worried about their online privacy, a total hitting 69% in the UK and 62% in Germany. The lowest rating here was in the Netherlands, on 48%.

This trend is already exerting an impact, as 36% of those polled in France had stopped visiting a site due to privacy concerns, reaching 33% for Germany, as well as 27% in the UK and 18% in the Netherlands.

Fully 86% of respondents in the Netherlands were aware of browser cookies, compared with 81% of their British counterparts and 78% of Germans. France recorded the lowest score here, on 59%.

Another 82% of Germans expected firms to comply with European Union regulations in this field, requiring that website owners gain consent for using cookies. This fell to 76% in the UK, versus 62% in the Netherlands and 53% for French participants.

A 49% share of Germans only planned to access the online platforms meeting these legal requirements, with France logging 44%, the Netherlands posting 37% and the UK on 33%.

When assessing the top 50 sites in each country, the average site in France dropped nine cookies onto a visitors' machine, standing at eight in the UK, six in Germany and five in the Netherlands.

Moreover, as of October 2012, none of the featured websites from France or Germany possessed "robust compliance solutions" to the EU Cookie Directive. Elsewhere, 12% of UK sites complied, a figure which rose to 32% in the Netherlands.

For 42% of consumers, visible certification that a company was fulfilling behavioural ad rules by the European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance would have a positive impact on their brand perception, while just 10% took the opposing view.

"The majority of EU consumers are highly knowledgeable about internet cookies and are aware of the pay-off between online targeting from advertisers and receiving free online services, content and games," said Danilo Labovic, EU managing director for TRUSTe.

"However they have high levels of privacy concerns and across all four countries, an average of 83% thought that companies should get their permission before tracking them online."

Data sourced from TRUSTe; additional content by Warc staff