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Cookies?!

26th May 2012 many websites could potentially become illegal in the UK.

A cookie, also known as an: -

  • HTTP cookie
  • Web cookie
  • Browser cookie

Is a few lines of data stored on your computer within a browser (the thing which you use to look at a website) frequently Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, or perhaps Safari for Apple Mac users (and there are others).

Interesting to note that only Denmark Estonia and the UK out of 27 countries have taken any notice of the EU directive on Cookies (another example of the Government being clueless?)

Cookies

Discover where and how to find cookies on your pc.

When you revisit a page or the website the browser and web server can interact together and the web server can recognise that you have been to the website before.

This can be very beneficial for example:

  • Internet banking
  • Purchasing on line
  • Commenting on a forum
  • Submitting a form on a website
  • Reducing the time it takes for a website page to load
  • If you own a website you can discover which pages an anonymous person visited via Google Analytics or other programs (subject to it being installed)
  • If you seek to provide your services at the lowest possible cost to your customers then Google Adwords is probably the most cost effective way of reaching your customers and hence saves them money, and that relies upon a cookie.

Do Cookies Identify People?

No.

A cookie on its own cannot identify you. The information provided by a cookie is anonymous.

It could show you searched for something or that you had visited a website.

A website cookie does not tell people your name, telephone number, email address, or other data which is specific to you, i.e. which is genuinely personal to you.

Why is the European Union and the United Kingdom Govt. So Concerned About Cookies?

A good question particularly as the Government intends to track who you phone and receive phone calls from and so forth in the near future in addition to retaining a copy of all emails sent for 1-year.

A mobile phone tells the operator where you are to within a few feet day and night, whether you like that or not.

The police track traffic on all major roads, there are more video cameras per person here in the UK than anywhere else in the world but all that aside.

Points to note: -

  • Cookies cannot carry viruses
  • Cannot install malware on the host computer

Can websites work without Cookies?

Not economically, and not without reducing the user experience because cookies perform essential functions in the modern web. Perhaps most importantly, authentication cookies are the most common method used by web servers to know whether the user is logged in or not, and which account they are logged in under. Without such a mechanism, the site would not know whether to send a page full of sensitive information, or a message saying "sorry, you need to log in". The security of an authentication cookie generally depends on the security of the issuing website and the user's web browser. If not implemented correctly, a cookie's data can be intercepted by a hacker to gain unapproved access to the user's data and possibly to the originating website.

Privacy is an important issue on the internet, stopping / blocking cookies is not the answer to the issue of privacy.

Can Cookies be deleted?

Yes, cookies can be deleted, depending upon your browser a comprehensive list of how to delete cookies from your computer.

Does The Government Have Any Clear and Precise Information Relating To Cookies

The Information Commissioner has created a document which clarifies the issues regarding cookies as only the Government could. Clearly whoever wrote the document had little or no idea how a website works and cookies. (The code triggering the cookie in many instances such as Google Analytics is on the website page. You arrive at the website via a link from a search engine or by directly typing the url in to your web browser) the JavaScript which triggers the cookie is in place before you arrive. You arrive and the cookie is placed on your machine. If you do not like cookies then you need to set your browser to refuse to allow a cookie to be placed on your computer.

Can I block Adware Tracking Cookies?

Yes, N.B. the EU / UK regulations only apply to websites hosted in the EU so a website could easily be hosted elsewhere and in a way probably the easiest way to comply with the regulations is to move your website hosting to a country which has a better understanding of cookies than the members of the EU. This blocking technique will work wherever a website is hosted. Blocking Adware Tracking Cookies...

Block Cookies in Internet Explorer

A Simple Solution To Stop Cookies

Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer - ideally if you are interested in privacy and security then you will want to be surfing the internet with the latest version of any browser. In IE9 one can surf the internet in private using the following settings.

Ctrl + Shift + P - you need to press all three at once and you will be able to surf anonymously.

How to go Incognito with Internet Explorer

Google Chrome

Browse the Internet with Google Chrome which can be downloaded for free.

Once installed navigate via the top right hand corner the wrench / spanner symbol choose "New incognito window" this will bring up a note saying... in summary.

How to go Incognito with Google Chrome

You've gone Incognito. Pages that you view in this window won't appear in your browser history or search history and they won't leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close all open Incognito windows.

Firefox

How to go Incognito with Firefox

Safari

How to go Incognito with Safari

The Government Set To Not Comply With Its Own Law...

When the Government passed the law on cookies it had no idea how it could be complied with and a year later is no further forward. This BBC article highlights that confusion reigns regarding cookies which is not surprising. The answer seems to lie somewhere between website owners should tell people that they collect limited information from website browsers and how users might remove those cookies should they wish or how they can browse a website without being tracked by cookies. That would appear to be a sensible middle ground between the impossibility of complying with the act and completely ignoring it. Who knows in the not too distant future the Government might take a commonsense pill and revise the legislation to match what is technically possible and practical, without throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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