What is a cookie?
Cookies are text files containing small amounts of information which are downloaded to your device when you visit a website. Cookies are then sent back to the originating website on each subsequent visit, or to another website that recognises that cookie. Cookies are useful because they allow a website to recognise a user's device.
Cookies do lots of different jobs, like letting you navigate between website pages efficiently, remembering your preferences and generally improve user experience. Cookies are widely used on the internet and allow a website/portal to recognise a user's device, without uniquely identifying the individual person using the computer. These technologies help to make it easier for you to log on and use the site, provide feedback to us as to which parts of the website you visit, so we can assess the effectiveness of the site and provide a better user experience. They can also help to ensure that adverts you see online are more relevant to you and your interests.
For more information about cookies, including how to see what cookies have been set and how to manage, block and delete them, see http://www.allaboutcookies.org.
Is there more than one flavour?
There are different types of cookies and they are usually split into the following categories, but note that not all these types will be used on every website you visit and some cookies fit into multiple categories:
These cookies are essential in order to enable you to move around the website and use its features, such as accessing secure areas of the website. Without these cookies, services you have asked for, like shopping baskets or e-billing, cannot be provided. So, basically, these cookies enable services you have specifically asked for.
These cookies collect information about how visitors use a website. For instance, which pages visitors go to most often and if they get error messages from web pages. These cookies don't collect information that uniquely identifies a visitor. All information that these cookies collect is aggregated and therefore anonymous. It is only used to improve how a website works. So, basically, these cookies collect anonymous information on the website pages you visited.
These cookies allow the website to remember choices you make (such as your user name, language or the region you are in) and provide enhanced, more personal features. For instance, a website may be able to provide you with local weather reports or traffic news by storing in a cookie the region in which you are currently located. These cookies can also be used to remember changes you have made to text size, fonts and other parts of web pages that you can customise. They may also be used to provide services you have asked for such as watching a video or commenting on a blog. The information these cookies collect may be anonymised and they cannot track your browsing activity on other websites. So, basically, these cookies remember choices you make to improve your user experience.
These cookies are used to deliver adverts more relevant to you and your interests. They are also used to limit the number of times you see an advertisement as well as help measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. They are usually placed by advertising networks with the website operator's permission. They remember that you have visited a website and this information is shared with other organisations such as advertisers. Quite often targeting or advertising cookies will be linked to site functionality provided by the other organisation. So, basically, these cookies collect information about your browsing habits in order to make advertising relevant to you and your interests.
How to control and delete cookies through your browser
The ability to disable or delete cookies can also be carried out by changing your browser's settings. In order to do this, follow the instructions provided by your browser (usually found in the 'Help', 'Edit' or 'Tools' facility). Some pages may not work if you completely disable all cookies, but many third party cookies can be safely blocked. If you do switch off cookies at a browser level, your device won't be able to accept cookies from any website. This means you will struggle to access the secure area of any website you use and you won't enjoy the best browsing experience when you are online.