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Cookies

A cookie is a piece of information in the form of a very small text file that is placed on an internet user's hard drive. It is generated by a web page server, which is basically the computer that operates a web site. The information the cookie contains is set by the server and it can be used by that server whenever the user visits the site. A cookie can be thought of as an internet user's identification card, which tell a web site when the user has returned.


WHAT DOES A COOKIE LOOK LIKE?

Below is the content of a typical cookie. This example is from the Hotmail service and has the filename jss@hotmail.msn.txt (.txt is the standard filename extension for text files). The cookie contains the text: HMP1 1 hotmail.msn.com/ 0 1715191808 32107852 1236821008 29449527. This code information is typical in that it does not contain personal information and will only make sense to Microsoft's MSN Hotmail servers.

Cookies for the internet were originally developed in 1995 by the Netscape Communications Corporation. The word "cookie" comes from "magic cookie," a term in programming languages for a piece of information shared between co-operating pieces of software. The choice of the word cookie appears to come from the American tradition of giving and sharing edible cookies.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF COOKIES?

Cookies make the interaction between users and web sites faster and easier. Without cookies, it would be very difficult for a web site to allow a visitor to fill up a shopping cart or other information that needs to be remembered from page to page during a visit to the site.

Web sites use cookies mainly because they save time and make the browsing experience more efficient and enjoyable. Web sites also often use cookies for the purposes of measuring the number of visitors a site has and which pages they prefer.

Cookies can also be used to monitor their users' web surfing habits and profile them for marketing purposes (for example, to find out which products or services they are interested in and send them targeted advertisements). This type of cookie is not used on this website and no personal information is stored in cookies or passed on to any third party.

ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COOKIES?

There are three main types of cookies:

SESSION COOKIES
Cookies that are stored in the computer's memory only during a user's browsing session and are automatically deleted from the user's computer when the browser is closed.

These cookies usually store a session ID that is not personally identifiable to users, allowing the user to move from page to page without having to log-in repeatedly. They are widely used by shooping sites (for example, to keep track of items that a consumer has added to a shopping cart.)

Session cookies are never written permanently on the hard drive and they do not collect any information from the user's computer. Session cookies expire at the end of the user's browser session and can also become no longer accessible after the session has been inactive for a specified length of time, usually 20 minutes.

ANALYTICS STORED COOKIES
Cookies that are stored on the user's computer and used to help in measuring the number of visitors to the website and whether they are new or returning visitors. There are usually 4 of these cookies and they are held on the hard drive for varying amounts of time.

Analytics cookies do not contain personally identifiable information and are only valuable indirectly to the web site owner in allowing them to ensure the site provides the information and functions that users find most useful.

PERSISTENT AND THIRD PARTY COOKIES
These exist for a number of reasons and can be entirely beneficial. However a number of sites store data entered by the user into a cookie which can be accessed by other websites. This is known as a third party cookie and can be used to target specific content and advertising at the user dependent upon their personal details or browsing habits when visiting subsequent web pages.

Recent (2011/12) legislation has targeted these very intrusive cookies as breaching the users right to privacy. Consequently the user should be provided a mechanism to disallow the use of these cookies. It should be borne in mind however that this regulation affects only EU based websites, those owned and hosted in the US or elsewhere are not covered.

ARE COOKIES DANGEROUS?

No. Cookies are small pieces of text. They are not computer programs, and they can't be executed as code. Also, they cannot be used to disseminate viruses, and modern browsers allow users to set their own limitations to the number of cookies saved on their hard drives.

CAN COOKIES THREATEN USERS' PRIVACY?

Certain web sites may store personal information in a cookie and leave it on your computer so that it can be read by other systems. This can then be used to target advertising or other material when you visit subsequent websites. This is the technique used when online adverts start to offer items that you have recently looked at or searched for.

This type of usage is being targeted by new (2011/12) EU legislation regulating the use of cookies. If cookies are used intrusively to collect or utilise personal data then the user must have the option to disallow the use of such cookies. Those that are only used specifically to ensure the effective operation of the site do not need to be treated in this way.

The 101Smart website and all websites created by 101Smart specifically do not use any such intrusive cookies. The only cookies used are a session cookie for short term site function and analytics cookies from Google analytics to measure the number of site visitors.