What are Cookies?
Cookies are small text files which are downloaded to your computer or mobile device when you visit a website or application. Your web browser (such as Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox or Chrome) then sends these cookies back to the website or application on each subsequent visit so that they can recognise you and remember things like whether you are logged into a members only area or other preferences.
As well as helping the website to function by allowing for members only areas, shopping carts, etc, there are other functions that cookies perform – such as to make advertising more relevant to your interests and to help the site owners track who is visiting their site – e.g. where the user is from, which browser the user accesses the site with, which site referred the user to them and so on. This information can then be used to improve the web browsing experience for all users of the site.
Cookies in themselves are not dangerous and despite what you may have heard or seen, they are just small text files that cannot contain executable code that could be used to infect your computer with a virus.
There are different types of cookies commonly referred to as session or persistent cookies, depending on how long they are used:
- Session cookies only last for the duration of your online session and disappear from your computer or device when you close your browser.
- Persistent cookies stay on your computer or device after the browser has been closed and last for the period of time specified in the cookie.
Persistent cookies are activated each time you visit the site that the cookie was generated by. These are generally cookies that advertising companies or analytic tools such as Google and Facebook use. They use persistent cookies to let site owners know how much traffic is coming to their sites, what type of visitors they are and also to target advertising to you. These cookies are also known as third-party cookies as they are not set by the website you are viewing, but by third-party code such as Google Analytics or Facebook Like buttons.
How do I find out which cookies are being set on a website, and how do I control them?
Most browsers will allow you to see which cookies are stored and which site(s) have set them. You will usually need to go into the settings/preferences section of your browser to find the cookies information.
Each browser will display cookie information in a slightly different way, so you will need to check the help and support pages for your particular browser if you are unfamiliar with how to check the cookie settings.
All modern browsers should let you:
- See what cookies have been set and delete them on an individual basis.
- Block third party cookies.
- Block cookies from particular sites.
- Block all cookies from being set.
- Delete all cookies when you close your browser.
You should be aware that if you delete cookies you could lose preferences that make your browsing experience easier, including sites where you have chosen to opt-out of using cookies as this requires a cookie to be set to tell the site NOT to set any more cookies!
If you block cookies completely a lot of websites won’t work at all and others will only have partial functionality.
If you only want to block third-party cookies generated by advertisers, trackers, etc, you can turn these off without affecting the cookies that make websites work.
The links below take you to the ‘Help/Support’ sections for each of the major browsers (cookie settings are usually in the security/privacy section), so that you can find out more about how to manage your cookies. Any browsers you install and any changes you make to your browser settings are completely at your discretion and we can not be held liable for any issues arising from them.
Managing Flash cookies
The most common types of cookies are those discussed above – HTTP cookies and you can control their use through the browser settings or plugins and similar tools.
However, as well as standard HTTP cookies there are cookies that can be set by ‘Flash‘ objects. These are objects used by sites to play movies, sounds, etc, and they have their own storage system to log user settings.These are called Flash Local Stored Objects (LSOs).
To control these Flash cookies you should read the following document available on the Adobe website: http://www.macromedia.com/support/documentation/en/flashplayer/help/settings_manager06.html
What am I agreeing to by using this site?
Hopefully this document has helped you to understand what cookies are, how this site uses them and why they are used by the majority of websites.
By using this website you are agreeing to allow this site and any widget, script, or third-party service used by the site, to set and use any type of cookie on your computer. You assume all responsibility for controlling which cookies are used through the mechanisms described above or by other processes you may opt to use.
If you choose to disable or delete cookies generated or used by this site, it is at your own risk and you accept that it may result in impaired functionality for which we can not be held liable.