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What Are Cookies?

September 22, 2016

You own a website which uses Cookies. Do you comply with what has become known as the Cookie Law? Or are you are reading the news or buying your online groceries and the website pops up a message concerning their Cookies? What are they and how do they affect you? This short blog lifts the lid on the basics!



Cookies are tiny data files which store information in your web browser. Each Cookie acts as a small lookup table containing pairs of values. For example first name, John and last name, Smith. The code on the server on your computer reads the Cookie, retrieves this data and personalises or customises the webpage accordingly. Most websites use them and they enable a site to remember information about you from your searches on a website. The idea is to make your web experience more personal and your server can then deliver you a page more tailored to you.

What Sort of Information is Stored?

You are a first time user to a site. You create a username which the Cookie stores and you go on to provide your name, address, phone number and password. The information is stored via a Cookie so when you revisit the site your server will read the Cookie and retrieve all your information.

So What’s the Problem?

Privacy and security of course! Some cookies collect data across a number of websites. By doing this a profile of you can be created so that certain content and adverts are shown to you. The law has this covered and this is why you get the annoying pop up to advise you of Cookie use when you land on a particular website. Web users have more control over online privacy because websites are required to inform and obtain consent from you. So although annoying when it pops up on your computer, smartphone or tablet it’s actually in your interest to read!

When are Cookies Created and how can I Disable them?

When you load a new webpage, for example, you press the “submit” key, a data handling page stores the relevant data from that Cookie. If you do not want this to happen pay attention to the annoying “pop up” to disable the action and reject the Cookie. Alternatively, check your settings and configure your computer to block websites from storing Cookies.

I’m a Business and I Own a Website – Help!

Cookie law makes most UK websites illegal! Make sure your website complies with the law or you risk enforcement action from The Information Commissioners’ Office (ICO) which could mean a hefty fine. Serious breaches are being fined up to £500k! Obtain a Privacy Policy to attach to your website once you have worked out the following:

  1. Perform a Cookie audit. What Cookies is my site using and why?
  2. Inform site visitors how you intend to use the Cookies.
  3. Add a Cookies Policy and obtain your visitor’s consent to use.

The law is difficult to ignore so stay on the safe side. LawBite provides legal services online and is more than happy to advise on this area of law.

Hannah Newell – LawBite LawBrief. For further legal advice, you can contact Hannah via our online legal advice portal.