Cookies, and how to manage them

Cookies, and how to manage them

With the new Cookie Law, cookies can't be ignored anymore...

The cookie law

The cookie law came into force in the UK on the 26th of May 2012. It’s a law passed by the European Union, and it requires businesses that reside in EU countries to be more upfront and honest about how they use cookies on their website. Behind the cookie law is the idea that visitors to websites should be informed about how that website is gathering information based on their actions, and to allow them to reject the cookies that gather this information.

In this article I will briefly explain what cookies are, and I’ll describe the different types of cookies used on the web. I will then demonstate how you can limit certain websites from placing cookies on your computer, depending on the browser you’re using.

About cookies

Cookies are small text files which websites place on your computer or mobile device when you visit a website. To us, they often contain nonsensical information that we can’t read, but it tells the website that placed the cookie important information that sometimes affects what it does when you view it. They are essentially a way for websites to store information on your computer that they, as well as other websites, can use at a later date.

The different types of cookie

Cookies can be placed into 4 general groups:

Essential cookies

These cookies are essential for the operation of a website, and the website would not function correctly without them. Cookies used when purchasing goods online to keep you secure and your actions private are a good example.

Performance cookies

These cookies are used to anonymously track your actions around a website. The data they collect can be used to improve the website so the next time you visit you will have a better experience. A website may wish to learn about which pages you view and how long you stay on the website for example. If you’ve clicked on a certain button or closed a popup advert, the website may store this information also. This may sound intrusive, but many cookies do not collect any information that can identify you, and merely associate information with you anonymously.

Functionality cookies

A website may set a cookie the first time you visit them, and this will affect how the website treats you the next time you visit. The website may store information related to your preferences, such as remembering your username so you don’t have to enter it each time you log in. These cookies can also provide you enhanced services, such as watching videos or commenting on an article.

Advertising cookies

Cookies can store information about what you search for on a website, and both that website and other websites they share the information with can use it to tailor adverts relevant to your interests. This is the most intrusive use for cookies, especially when the information collected about you is shared to other websites.

Blocking cookies from a website

Select your browser:

Firefox

Google Chrome / Chromium

Safari

Firefox

Once you have opened Preferences and clicked on the Privacy tab, select the option to use custom settings for history.

132-firefox-privacy

Click on the Exceptions… button on the right.

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Add the address of the website, and click on Block to block all cookies from that website.

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Chrome / Chromium

Open Preferences. Click on Settings on the left, and then Show advanced settings at the bottom.

136-chrome-privacy

Click on Content settings…

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To change cookie settings for a particular website, click Manage exceptions…

140-chrome-cookie-exceptions

Add the address of the website, and then change the Behavior for that website to Block.

Return to the top of the page

Safari

Sadly Safari doesn’t offer the same level as control as Firefox and Chrome / Chromium for blocking cookies from a certain website. One thing to check though is that it is set to block third-party and advertising cookies in general.

Open Preferences, and click on the Privacy tab.

137-safari-privacy

Ensure that the option to block cookies from third parties and advertisers is selected.

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Samuel Claxon
Author
Samuel Claxon
Developer

Published:
8th June, 2012

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