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Internet cookies

Some websites store small amounts of data on your computer or mobile phone called 'cookies' to remember if you've been to the website before. They also allow you to use online services more easily.

Cookies mean the website can recognise your device (your computer or mobile phone) if you return to the same website.

A cookie often includes a 'unique identifer', which is a randomly-generated number. This is stored on your device's hard-drive. Many cookies are automatically deleted after you finish using a website.

Cookies are not programs or applications, and do not collect information from your computer.

Websites use cookies for a number of reasons:

  • understanding what visitors to the website want to use and note use: cookies are used to see how many people are looking at specific webpages. This can help organisations to make their websites more useful. 
  • remembering your selections or preferences when looking at information, or using a service: cookies  can allow websites to improve the service you receive and archive what is not used. For example, you could tailor a news website's homepage to only show news from topics you are interested in. The cookie would 'remember' this and the website would present the information you want to see next time you return to it. 
  • enabling you to complete a task without re-entering information you've already given before: some services need to store a cookie in your computer for them to work. 

Cookies are sent to your browser by a website, and then stored in the cookies directory on your computer. Your browser may be Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari or any other browser.

To check and update your cookies settings, you will need to know what browser you are using and what version of it you have. You can usually find this out by opening the browser (just as you do to use the Internet), then clicking on 'help' and then 'about'. This will give you the information about the browser version you are using.

To find out how to allow, block, delete and manage, consult your browser's built-in or online help guide for more information.

For information about how to reject cookies on your mobile phone's web browser, see your handset manual.