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About Cookies

  • What is a Cookie? - About Cookies

A cookie is a text-only string of information that a website transfers to the cookie file of the browser on your computer's hard disk so that the website can remember who you are.

A cookie will typically contain the name of the domain from which the cookie has come, the "lifetime" of the cookie, and a value, usually a randomly generated unique number. Two types of cookies are used on this website-session cookies, which are temporary cookies that remain in the cookie file of your browser until you leave the site, and persistent cookies, which remain in the cookie file of your browser for much longer (though how long will depend on the lifetime of the specific cookie).

Cookies can help a website to arrange content to match your preferred interests more quickly. Most major websites use cookies. Cookies cannot be used by themselves to identify you.

  • Are all cookies the same?

There are two different types of cookies:

Session cookies - these are temporary and are erased when you close your browser at the end of your surfing session. The next time you visit that particular site it will not recognise you and will treat you as a completely new visitor as there is nothing in your browser to let the site know that you have visited before (more on session cookies).

Persistent cookies - these remain on your hard drive until you erase them or they expire. How long a cookie remains on your browser depends on how long the visited website has programmed the cookie to last (more on persistent cookies).

  • What are session cookies used for?

Without cookies, websites and their servers have no memory. A cookie, like a key, enables swift passage from one place to the next. Without a cookie every time you open a new web page the server where that page is stored will treat you like a completely new visitor.

Websites typically use session cookies to ensure that you are recognised when you move from page to page within one site and that any information you have entered is remembered. For example, if an e-commerce site did not use session cookies then items placed in a shopping basket would disappear by the time you reach the checkout. You can choose to accept session cookies by changing the settings in your browser - for more information, please go to the manage cookies section.

  • What are persistent cookies used for?

A persistent cookie enables a website to remember you on subsequent visits, speeding up or enhancing your experience of services or functions offered.

For example, a website may offer its contents in different languages. On your first visit, you may choose to have the content delivered in French and the site may record that preference in a persistent cookie set on your browser. When you revisit that site it will use the cookie to ensure that the content is delivered in French.

For a demonstration of how a persistent cookie might be used. You can decide whether to allow your browser to accept these types of cookies by changing the settings. For more information, please go to the manage cookies section.

  • What can't cookies do?

Because cookies are just harmless files, or keys, they cannot look into your computer and find out information about you, your family, or read any material kept on your hard-drive. Cookies simply unlock a computer's memory and allow a website to recognise users when they return to a site by opening doors to different content or services. It is technically impossible for cookies to read personal information.

  • So how do cookies get onto my browser?

For an explanation of how cookies get onto your computer, refer to the browser technology section

For a slideshow demonstrating of how cookies get on to your browser here.

  • What information is in a cookie?

This depends on how a website has set up its cookie feature, but generally the content of a cookie is a randomly generated set of characters. For most purposes a website sending a cookie does not need to know who you are - it just needs to remember that it has seen your browser before (for more information, please go to the manage cookies section.).

Some websites do write personal information about you into a cookie, but this is only possible if you have provided them with the information in the first place. If personal information is stored in a cookie it is usually encrypted - coded - so that any third party who has access to the cookie folder of your browser cannot read it.

Some website servers use a combination of methods: on your browser they may create a cookie with unique but anonymous content; or on the server side they may create a file that logs that unique but anonymous content alongside any personal information that you have provided.

View a demonstration of how personal data linked to a cookie can provide you with personalised content on a web page.

Manage Cookies

  • What can I do to manage cookies stored on my computer?

There are a number of ways to manage cookies. If you use different computers in different locations you will need to ensure that each browser is adjusted to suit your cookie preferences.

Some modern browsers have a feature that will analyse website privacy policies and allow a user to control their privacy needs. These are known as "P3P" features (Privacy Preferences Platform). Find further information on P3P.

You can easily delete any cookies that have been installed in the cookie folder of your browser. For example, if you are using Microsoft Windows Explorer:

  1. Open 'Windows Explorer'
  2. Click on the 'Search' button on the tool bar
  3. Type "cookie" into the search box for 'Folders and Files'
  4. Select 'My Computer' in the 'Look In' box
  5. Click 'Search Now'
  6. Double click on the folders that are found
  7. 'Select' any cookie file
  8. Hit the 'Delete' button on your keyboard

If you are not using Microsoft Windows Explorer, then you should select "cookies" in the "Help" function for information on where to find your cookie folder.

  • What can I do to stop cookies being installed on my browser?

All web browsers enable you to set your cookie preferences before you start surfing.

Netscape Navigator 3.0
Internet Explorer 3.0
Netscape 4.0+
Internet Explorer 4.0
Internet Explorer 5.0+
Netscape 6.0+

In Internet Explorer 5.0+:

  1. Go to the 'Tools' menu
  2. Click on 'Internet Options'
  3. Click the 'Security' tab
  4. Highlight the 'Internet' zone (selected by default)
  5. Select security level 'High' for this zone
  6. Click on 'OK'
  7. Go into your cookies directory (usually c:\windows\cookies)
  8. Delete all the files you have there

Once you delete these files, you will have no more cookies and your browser will no longer send or receive new cookies.

  • I like to control which cookies are being set on my browser, but the alerts are rather annoying - is there anyway that I can stop them?

The most up to date versions of browser technology enable you to set your preferences with more sophistication so that you can choose which cookies to accept or reject. They use a system called P3P (Privacy Preferences Platform) to match your preferences with the privacy policy of a website. For more information about this, please click here.

Set preferences on Internet Explorer 6
Set preferences on Netscape 7

To set preferences on Internet Explorer 6

First ensure you have the latest service pack installed, click here if you have not.

  1. On your browser toolbar click on 'File'
  2. Click on the 'Tools' menu
  3. Click 'Internet Options'
  4. Click the tab marked 'Privacy'
  5. Move the sliding bar up or down to set how high or low you want your privacy preferences in relation to the use of first and third party cookies.
  6. To end click 'Ok'

Having set your privacy preferences, you can then check the privacy practices of any website or page that you are visiting by:

  1. Click 'File' on the tool bar of the browser
  2. Click on 'View'
  3. Click on 'Privacy Report'

This will display a box indicating content that Internet Explorer considers to be cookies and web beacons, and what actions Internet Explorer has taken based on the privacy preferences that you have set in your browser. If you click on 'Edit,' you will be able to set site-specific privacy preferences.

  • What is an Opt-Out cookie?

These are essentially cookies used to avoid cookies. Accepting an opt-out cookie blocks future cookies being installed on your browser by a particular website server or advertiser. It essentially lets you declare that you do not wish to participate in targeted ad delivery, profiling or otherwise have your web browsing tracked. An opt-out cookie will only block cookies from a particular server and is not a generic tool to block cookies from any site you visit. However, you can manage cookies via your browser settings.

The major third party ad serving companies offer web users the ability to accept an opt-out cookie - for more information please click on This site provides a one-stop shop for accepting opt-out cookies.

About Your Browser

  • What does my browser do?

When you type a web page address such as into your browser, that web page in its entirety is not actually stored on a server ready and waiting to be delivered. In fact each web page that you request is individually created in response to your request.

You are actually calling up a list of requests to get content from various resource directories or servers on which the content for that page is stored. It is rather like a recipe for a cake - you have a shopping list of ingredients (requests for content) that when combined in the correct order bakes a cake (the web page). As soon as you move to another page, the page that you have just viewed disappears. This is the dynamic nature of websites.

  • So how is a web page created for me?

The content required to create a web page could be delivered by different companies - for example, the main content of a site could be provided by its owner (first-party), but that company may contract others (third-parties) to provide complementary or supplementary content such as pictures or video content, weather reports, stock and share price tickers, advertising etc. For each piece of content your browser will use codes to automatically contact relevant third-party servers in order to download content.

  • What information needs to be shared in order for a web page to be created for me?

Each request for content involves the sharing of the following information, together with any cookie information:

IP Address - this is the address or location of your computer. It stands for Internet Protocol Address. Whenever there is a request for online content two IP addresses are involved. First is the IP address of the server where the content is stored, and second is your IP address - the computer to which content is to be delivered.

An address usually has "http" included (Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol). This is the format most commonly used to transfer documents on the web. This part of the request is shared as it may indicate to the server storing content the type and version of the browser to which content is to be sent. It may also identify the type and version of the operating system that is being used. This is important for ensuring that the content you have requested is compatible with, and can be seen by, your browser.

  • So how do cookies get onto my browser?

As explained in section 2 above, each time your browser requests content for a web page that you want to look at, it must exchange some information with the server on which that content is stored. A cookie may be involved as part of that information sharing. Please click here

Create your own Cookie Policy

Under the new legislation, if you use cookies on your website you must inform users about how you use cookies and provide advice telling them how they can refuse cookies. To help website owners in complying with legislation we have created a checklist that will help you identify how cookies are used on your site and provide two sample policies which can be used by site owners.

As it goes very lengthy, visit the url on demand :) - FAQ Section

  • What is an IP address?

An IP Address is a way to measure a user's unique identity. It is a number that is allocated to your browser by your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or employer, when you log on to the internet. It is usually allocated on a temporary (or dynamic) basis ie it is only allocated to your browser for the duration of that session online. It is the 'address' of your computer while you are online. Without an IP address, servers would not be able to deliver content to you, because they would not be able to locate your computer.

  • What is a Cookie File/Folder?

Essentially this is the memory of your internet browser where you can find all your cookies stored in a format that facilitates easy retrieval by a browser.

  • What is Protocol?

A uniform set of rules that enable two devices to connect and transmit data to one another. Protocols determine how data are transmitted between computing devices and over networks. They define issues such as error control and data compression methods. The protocol determines the following: type of error checking to be used, data compression method (if any), how the sending device will indicate that it has finished a message and how the receiving device will indicate that it has received the message. Internet protocols include TCP/IP (Transfer Control Protocol/Internet Protocol), HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol).

  • What are Pop Up ads?

A pop up is an advertisement displayed in a new browser window. Pop up windows come in many different shapes and sizes, typically in a scaled-down browser window with only the Close, Minimize and Maximize commands. Pop-ups are simply one of many formats, alongside fixed spaces within a page, interstitials (between pages), search, rich media, microsites, email, sponsorships, listings and others. Pop-ups are simply part of this digital media mix. The reason they are used is that they work - that's why marketers continue asking for them.

  • What is a cookie?

A cookie is a small file of letters and numbers downloaded on to your computer when you access certain websites. Like virtual door keys, cookies unlock a computer's memory and allow a website to recognise users when they return to a site by opening doors to different content or services. Like a key, a cookie itself does not contain information, but when it is read by a browser it can help a website improve the service delivered.

Cookie files are automatically lodged into the cookie file - the memory of your browser - and each one typically contains:

* The name of the server the cookie was sent from
* The lifetime of the cookie
* A value - usually a randomly generated unique number

The website server which sent the cookie uses this number to recognise you when you return to a site or browse from page to page. Only the server that sent a cookie can read, and therefore use, that cookie.

For more information on cookies please click here.

  • What is a browser?

A browser is a software application that is your gateway to the internet - a software programme installed on your computer enabling you to visit websites, navigate from web page to web page, print web pages and even email. Common browser brands include Internet Explorer, Netscape and AOL. Remember that if you use different computers in different locations e.g. a computer at work and a computer at home, you may have a different browser for each.

For more information about browsers and how they work please click here

  • What are Web Beacons, otherwise known as Web Bugs, and how do the work?

A web beacon is a transparent image file used to monitor your journey around a single website or collection of sites. They are also referred to as web bugs and are commonly used by sites that hire third-party services to monitor traffic. They may be used in association with cookies to understand how visitors interact with the pages and content on the pages of a web site.

For example a company owning a network of sites may use web beacons to count and recognise users travelling around its network. Being able to recognise you enables the site owner to personalise your visit and make it more user friendly.

For more information about web beacons or bugs please click here.

  • Clear GIF

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is a type of picture file used on the internet. It has certain special characteristics which make it more useful than JPEG or other picture file formats in certain situations. Clear GIFs are commonly used as web beacons because they are invisible and very small so they don't affect the download speed of a webpage or email. However any sort of file could be used as a web beacon.

  • I have heard that cookies are bad for privacy - is that true?

This is a myth - cookies are a friendly internet tool primarily used by the advertising and e-commerce industry to make surfing easier and quicker. They have several roles, none of which can compromise your privacy:

1. Protection - to ensure you are a genuine visitor and not someone else using your password.
2. Authenticate and speed up your identification and e-commerce transactions.
3. Recognise preferences e.g. remember user names and passwords for websites.
4. Cap the frequency of ad serving and to make sure that advertisements are rotated and not duplicated during any one visit to a site

Many websites use the services of other companies to provide the content and services on their website. These third parties may provide content or services to more than one website. If they are using cookies, in theory, they can understand what that cookie does on a number of different sites. For more information please click here.

  • What else can I do to protect myself when online?

The internet is a powerful tool that used correctly is safe, easy and fast. So let your fingers do the hard work while you sit back and browse through a virtual library or high street from the comfort of your keyboard. But do be mindful and take a few basic precautions.

1. Before entering any personal data such as email address, credit card details, check the privacy policy of the site you are visiting. If there is no privacy policy, go elsewhere.
2. Do not provide more personal data than you are comfortable with. If you feel the questions are too intrusive, go elsewhere.
3. Think before putting your personal details on a public site such as a bulletin board or chat room. Set up a different email address for such uses.
4. Where you are permanently connected to the internet use a firewall to protect your computer and personal information from online attacks.
5. Be Smart with passwords. Don't use the same password on an unsecured site that is used on a secured site. Don't use the same password for voice mail at work or at home. Don't use credit or debit card PIN number as a password.

The aim of this website is to provide you with straightforward explanations of cookie technology and how it may be used by website owners and online content providers, including advertisers. We would welcome your feedback on the content of this site, in order that we can continue to provide information that answers your questions. Please click here to submit your feedback on this site.

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