What are cookies?
Cookies are small text files that web sites often store on the computer hard drives of visitors to their sites. They are widely used in order to make web sites work, or work better, as well as to provide information to the owners of the site. A cookie often contains a unique number, which can be used to recognise your computer when a user of your computer returns to a website that it visited previously.
Types of cookies
There are two broad types of cookies - 'first party cookies' and 'third party cookies':
- First party cookies are cookies that are served directly by the website operator to your computer, and are often used to recognise your computer when it revisits that site and to remember your preferences as you browse the site.
- Third party cookies are served by a service provider on behalf of the website operator, and can be used by the service provider to recognise your computer when it visits other web sites. Third party cookies are most commonly used for web site analytics or advertising purposes.
- In addition, cookies may be either 'session cookies' or 'persistent cookies'. Your computer automatically removes session cookies once you close your browser. Persistent cookies will survive on your computer until an expiry date specified in the cookie itself, is reached.
We use the categorisation set out by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in their UK Cookie Guide, produced in April 2012. The guide is available to download in PDF format (290KB).
The guide identifies four categories of cookies, outlined below:
1. Strictly necessary cookies:
- These cookies are essential for the user to move around the website and to use its features, e.g. shopping baskets and e-billing.
2. Performance cookies:
- These cookies collect information about how the user makes use of the site, e.g. which pages the user visits most.These cookies do not collect information that identifies the user.
3. Functionality cookies:
- These cookies remember choices made by the user and enhance the features, e.g. language or users location.
- This cookie is also used to remember a user's preferences for a font size, or customisable parts of a web page.
4. Targeting or advertising cookies:
- These cookies collect information about the users' browsing habits.
- This may also include links to social media sites, e.g. Facebook, etc.
You have the right to choose whether to accept these cookies. You can exercise this right by amending or setting the controls on your browser to reflect your cookie preferences.
Changing your cookie preferences
The "Help" menu in the toolbar of most web browsers will tell you how to change your browser's cookie settings, including how to have the browser notify you when you receive a new cookie, and how to disable cookies altogether.
An online guide is available if you have difficulties trying to change your browser settings.
Further information about cookies and how to control their use is available from All About Cookies and Your Online Choices.