LONDON: Plans from the European Commission to provide user "opt outs" for tracking cookies could have a negative impact on the online marketing industry, a new poll has indicated.

The survey, from affilinet, revealed that just 12% of online marketing professionals believe they would be able to engage customers as successfully as they currently do if they used no cookies in the future.

This is a significant decline from the 35% who said the same last year, indicating that fears over the tough new rules are on the rise.

Cookies are small text files that are dropped onto users' computer hard drives when they visit a website and provide anonymous information about web browsing habits. In this way, they allow marketers to serve online ads that are more relevant to the user's interests.

The European Commission's Privacy and Communications Directive, with which authorities in each of the 27 European Union member states are obliged to comply, calls for tighter regulations on the way marketers track online customers.

Under the terms of the directive, users will be given greater opportunity to "opt out" of receiving certain types of cookies while browsing the web.

Gary Bicker, operations director at affilinet UK, said: "There is clearly a need for further communication and education around the enforcement of the new legislation around use of cookies, an issue that is increasingly of concern to many marketers."

The affilinet poll suggests that the implementation of the new rules could impact on internet adspend over the long term.

Nevertheless, the affilinet poll also indicated that a majority (54%) of respondents planned to raise their online marketing budgets over the next year.

For its survey, affilinet polled 111 people at ad:tech 2011, an industry event which took place in London in September 2011.

Data sourced from New Media Age/The Drum; additional content by Warc staff