The UK government has updated the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations in response to the EU Privacy Directive. In light of this the Information Commissioner’s Office has provided guidance on the EU Cookie Law which came into effect in May 2012.
What are cookies?
Cookies are small text files that the websites you visit place on your computer to store information about your visit. Cookies are ‘passive’ in that they contain information your browser can retrieve, but do not contain programmes, viruses or malicious software. Cookies normally expire after a certain length of time, although that time can be anywhere from a few minutes to more than a year.
Cookies can be divided into two categories: ‘session’ and ‘persistent’. Session cookies are temporary and are deleted when you close your browser or after a period of inactivity. Persistent cookies remain on your computer until the expiration date/time set by the cookie creator.
What do cookies do?
Cookies can contain many types of information about your visit to a particular website, but most commonly are used to store the preferences you’ve selected, such as language, shopping cart contents, privacy settings and login state. Cookies do not contain personal or private data about you, but can compile information about your browsing habits. For the most part, cookies enhance your browsing experience by keeping you from having to select the same options each time you visit a site.
However, cookies can also be used by websites to serve you advertising targeted to your particular interests based on the preferences you’ve selected or the content of the pages you have visited. For this reason, some web users choose to delete or reject cookies of certain types or from certain sites.
Can I delete cookies?
Yes, you can both view the cookies stored on your computer and delete some or all of them. However, each browser has a slightly different procedure for doing so. Here are instructions for deleting cookies in some popular browsers: http://www.pcworld.com/article/242939/how_to_delete_cookies.html
Note that in some cases, deleting cookies will impact your experience in revisiting a site. For example, you may be forced to log in again, or items added to your shopping cart will have disappeared.
Can I set my browser to block cookies?
Yes, most browsers allow you to specify which types of cookies you will accept or to reject all cookies. As each browser is different, here are some of the most common ones:
As above, you may see an alert message when visiting some sites that recommends you accept cookies for an optimal browsing experience.
Which cookies does UCL use?
Most cookies you will encounter when browsing the UCL website are considered ‘third party’ cookies. This simply means the UCL website has used a feature supplied by an external provider, such as Facebook or Google Maps which sets the cookie. Third party cookies are not inherently more or less risky than first party cookies. The only thing to bear in mind is that the external provider, not UCL, determines what type of information is stored and how it is used.
The most common type of cookie used on UCL’s website is set by Google Analytics, which provides anonymous statistical data to us to show usage trends and to aid in making decisions about what types of content are most popular.
Specific information about the cookies on UCL’s website contained in our cookie register, which will be updated as we progress through our audit.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact email@example.com.
What are web beacons and how does UCL use them?
Web beacons are small invisible graphics files (typically 1×1 pixel) that are downloaded from a server when you open or click on most HTML email newsletters (email newsletters that feature a consistent graphic design).
UCL works with a number of service providers to create and deliver HTML email newsletters. Web beacons and similar technologies are used by these newsletters to enable UCL to know which of our recipients open the newsletters, when they do so, the browsers that they use, and the links that they click on in UCL newsletters. This information allows UCL to improve the service provided to you via email newsletters and potentially to customise the service we provide to you – for example, to supply you with information about UCL events that are relevant to your interests.
UCL and its service providers store any information collected in a confidential and secure environment, and never pass this information to any third parties. You can unsubscribe from our email newsletters at any time by clicking on the relevant link at the bottom of the newsletter.
All UCL staff receive TheWeek@UCL, UCL’s official weekly email newsletter that ensures all staff are aware of key internal announcements, information, news and events. UCL uses a service provider to circulate TheWeek@UCL. The newsletter also uses a web beacon, although for TheWeek@UCL, UCL only accesses aggregated, anonymous data about the links followed from this newsletter, in order to inform and improve the development and relevance of this service for staff.