What are cookies?For almost any modern website to work properly, it needs to collect certain basic information on its users. To do this, a site will create files known as cookies – which are small text files – on its users’ computers. These cookies are designed to allow the website to recognise its users on subsequent visits, or to authorise other designated websites to recognise these users for a particular purpose. Cookies do a lot of different jobs which make your experience of the Internet much smoother and more interactive. For instance, they are used to remember your preferences on sites you visit often, to remember your user ID and the contents of your shopping baskets, and to help you navigate between pages more efficiently. They also help ensure that the advertisements that you see online are more relevant to you and your interests. Much, though not all, of the data that they collect is anonymous, though some of it is designed to detect browsing patterns and approximate geographical location to improve user experience. Some of our pages may also contain images called ‘web beacons’ (also known as ‘clear gifs’), which allow us to count visitors. Web beacons only collect limited information, including a cookie number, a timestamp, and a record of the page on which they are placed. We may also carry web beacons placed by third party advertisers. These beacons do not carry any personally identifiable information and are only used to track the effectiveness of a particular campaign. Information collected by cookies and web beacons is not personally identifiable.
What types of cookie are there?Broadly speaking, there are four types of cookie: strictly necessary cookies, performance cookies, functionality cookies and targeting or advertising cookies. Strictly necessary cookies are essential to navigate around a website and use its features. Without them, you wouldn’t be able to use basic services like shopping baskets and e-billing. Performance cookies collect anonymous data on how visitors use a website; they can’t track users, and are only used to improve how a website works. Functionality cookies allow users to customise how a website looks for them: they can remember usernames, language preferences and regions, and can be used to provide more personal services like local weather reports and traffic news. Advertising and targeting cookies are used to deliver advertisements more relevant to you, but can also limit the number of times you see an advertisement, and be used to chart the effectiveness of an ad campaign by tracking users’ clicks. They can also provide security in transactions. They are usually placed by third-party advertising networks with a website operator’s permission, but can be placed by the operator themselves. They can remember that you have visited a website, and this information can be shared with other organisations, including other advertisers. Additionally, these cookies break down into two further sub-types. Persistent cookies remain on a user’s device for a set period of time specified in the cookie. They are activated each time that the user visits the website that created that particular cookie. Session cookies are temporary. They allow website operators to link the actions of a user during a browser session. A browser session starts when a user opens the browser window and finishes when they close the browser window. Once you close the browser, all session cookies are deleted.
What’s the law?Recently, the law on cookies has changed. Now sites that try to place performance, functionality, and targeting and advertising cookies need your permission for before they can place them onto your computer. To find out more about the law, click here.
How do I turn cookies off?Most browsers accept cookies automatically, but you can alter the settings of your browser to erase cookies or prevent automatic acceptance if you prefer. Generally you have the option to accept all cookies, to be notified when a cookie is issued or reject all cookies. Visit the ‘options’ or ‘preferences’ menu on your browser to change settings, and check the following links for more browser-specific information. Cookie settings in Internet Explorer
Cookie settings in Firefox
Cookie settings in Chrome
Cookie settings in Safari To switch off third-party advertising cookies, you can turn these off by visiting the Internet Advertising Bureau’s consumer advice site here. For more information on cookies, click here