What are cookies?
What is a cookie?
A ‘cookie’ is a small text file that the website you are visiting asks to save on your computer. Cookies are used on many websites to allow visitors to use various functions. The information contained in cookies can also be used to track your surfing on different websites that use the same cookie. There are two kinds of cookie. One kind is called a 'persistent cookie'. This saves a file on your computer for a long time; this kind of cookie has an expiry date. It is used, for example, for functions that tell you about any new features since you last visited the website in question. When the expiry date has passed, the cookie is automatically deleted when you return to the website that created it. The second kind of cookie is called a ‘session cookie’ and does not have an expiry date. This cookie is temporarily stored in your computer’s memory while you are surfing on a site, for example to keep a track of which language you have chosen. Session cookies are not stored on your computer for a long period of time, but always disappear when you shut down your web browser.
What are ‘third-party cookies’?
Cookies that are used to collect information for targeted advertisements, personalized content and web statistics may be ‘third-party cookies’. These cookies come from someone other than the person responsible for the website, e.g. an advertising firm, an audience research firm, a web analytics vendor. An advertising firm may deploy advertisements or statistics services that monitor the surfing habits of users on many different websites. Visitor surfing habits may therefore potentially be monitored on all of the websites that use the same advertisement or statistical service. As third-party cookies make it possible to generate more comprehensive surveys of user surfing habits, they are deemed to be more sensitive from the perspective of personal privacy.
What are cookies used for?
What are ‘Flash cookies’?
Cookies are small fragments of text that are themselves harmless when compared with, for instance, viruses. Cookies will not wreck your computer. However there are still a number of risks. These risks basically fall into the following four categories: Cookies enable websites to monitor your activities on the Internet under certain conditions. This may be perceived as an intrusion of your personal privacy. The interception and falsification of cookies may under certain conditions be used as tools for electronic crime. These tools may be used, for instance, for unauthorised logging on, unauthorised tampering with the content of baskets, distortion of statistics, unauthorised voting and so on. A ‘session cookie’, which is erased from your computer when you shut down your web browser, is deemed to be associated with fewer risks than other cookies, as it is not permanent. A 'persistent cookie', remains on your computer with some expiry date set in the future. These cookies can pose a higher personal privacy threat if misused.
What does the law say about cookies?
If you operate a website in the EU or UK then all visitors to a website with cookies must have access to information stating that the website contains cookies and the purpose for which cookies are used. Visitors must also consent to cookies being used in this way.
What is the purpose of the law on cookies?
The purpose of the cookie law and cookie compliance is to protect the personal privacy of users. Cookies are used on many websites to allow visitors to use various functions. The information contained in cookies can also be used to track your browsing behaviours online, particularly if this involves third-party cookies that are found on many different websites. Cookies can therefore also be used to collect, store and share personal information that users leave behind after their online browsing.