HIGH-INTEREST credit cards and Black Friday deals are among the adverts targeted at people seeking benefits advice on council websites.

A BBC investigation found more than 950 advertising cookies - small text files that track people on the internet - embedded in local council benefits pages.

Examples of targeted adverts on benefits pages seen by the BBC include high-interest credit cards, Black Friday deals, and private funeral care plans.

A Torfaen council spokesman said there was “no suggestion” that adverts appeared for high-interest credit cards or similar products on its benefits page.

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


It said it would look into the findings of the report.

The advertising industry has denied using data from vulnerable residents.

The investigation found 34 cookies on Torfaen council’s benefits page, 25 of which were advertising cookies – the highest number in Wales.

Monmouthshire council’s benefits page was found to contain 21 advertising cookies, while Blaenau Gwent council’s hosted 18 cookies on its benefits page.

No advertising cookies were hosted on either Newport or Caerphilly council’s benefits pages.

A Torfaen council spokesman said: “When we allowed external advertising on our website we took the decision to block all advertising we considered inappropriate for a public sector environment, such as gambling, alcohol, payday loans, politics and adult themes.

“Visitors to our website should only see appropriate advertising if they choose to accept cookies when they visit our page.

“At the time of this survey during October 2019, we only provided web visitors with the option to accept cookies.

“However, by not accepting, the user was in effect declining cookies and no adverts would have appeared.

“We’ve recently implemented a new version which now gives the option to either accept or decline, so believe this has reduced ambiguity. Put very simply, if you accept cookies you will see appropriate adverts.

“The data consent management tool we use also ensures cookies (and thus adverts) are withheld indefinitely until consent is given by the user and this makes the council fully compliant with current data privacy regulations in the advertising environment.

“Although the report cites advertising cookies were found on the council’s benefits pages, there was no suggestion that adverts appeared from companies offering high-interest credit cards or similar products.”