What are cookies?
A cookie is a small file of letters and numbers that is downloaded on to your computer when you visit a website. Cookies are used by many websites and can do a number of things, eg remembering your preferences, recording what you have put in your shopping basket, and counting the number of people looking at a website.
The rules on cookies are covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR). PECR also covers the use of similar technologies for storing or accessing information, such as ‘Flash cookies’ and device fingerprinting.
The ICO is responsible for enforcing these rules.
How do the cookie regulations affect me?
You may come across information about cookies and similar technologies on websites and be given choices about how some cookies are used. This might include, for example, being asked to agree to a cookie being used for a particular service, such as remembering your preferences on a site.
How can I control my cookies?
You can use your web browser to:
- delete all cookies;
- block all cookies;
- allow all cookies;
- block ‘third-party’ cookies (ie, cookies set by online services other than the one you are visiting);
- clear all cookies when you close the browser;
- open a ‘private browsing’ / ‘incognito’ session, which allows you to browse the web without recording your browsing history or storing local data such as cookies (you should however be aware of the limitations of this feature in a privacy context); and
- install add-ons and plugins that extend browser functionality.
Where to find information about controlling cookies
- A number of websites provide detailed information on cookies, including AboutCookies.org and AllAboutCookies.org.
- The European Interactive Digital Advertising Alliance website Your Online Choices allows you to install opt-out cookies across different advertising networks.
- Google has developed a browser add-on to allow users to opt-out of Google Analytics across all websites which use it. This is also available in the Chrome web store.
- Some browsers include a feature known as ‘Do Not Track’ or DNT. This allows you to indicate a preference that websites should not track you. However, whilst DNT is available in many browsers, websites are not required to recognise its request, so it may not always work. You can get help on how to use DNT in Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera.
- Internet Explorer has a feature called Tracking Protection Lists which allows you to import a list of websites you want to block.
- For more information on how private browsing works as well as its limitations, visit the support pages for your browser: Microsoft Edge, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari (mobile and desktop) and Opera.