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What are cookies?

A cookie is a small text file that a website saves on your computer or mobile device when you visit a web site. Generally, cookies enable the web site to remember your actions and preferences (such as login, language, font size and other display preferences) over a period of time, so you don’t have to keep re-entering them whenever you come back to the site or browse from one page to another.

Third-party cookies are those placed by organisations unrelated to that provide advertising (Google) or other services such as videos (YouTube).

Why are cookies a topic?

  • We are now obliged by European Union law to display a banner asking whether you, as a visitor to, agree to have cookies placed on your device (computer, tablet etc). Thus, the first time you visit, you will see the banner at the top of the page you visit. You will not see this banner again if you return to within 365 days (a year). We don't want to keep nagging you.

  • EU Directive 2002/58/EC includes Article 5(3) that refers to 'cookies'.
    Article 5(3) is currently (September, 2015)

    'Member States shall ensure that the use of electronic communications networks to store information or to gain access to information stored in the terminal equipment of a subscriber or user is only allowed on condition that the subscriber or user concerned is provided with clear and comprehensive information in accordance with Directive 95/46/EC, inter alia about the purposes of the processing, and is offered the right to refuse such processing by the data controller. This shall not prevent any technical storage or access for the sole purpose of carrying out or facilitating the transmission of a communication over an electronic communications network, or as strictly necessary in order to provide an information society service explicitly requested by the subscriber or user.'

  • The banner can confuse users and does nothing, actually, to improve your privacy.

  • Your answer, whether yes or no, is also stored on your device as a cookie (!).

  • This law appears to have less to do with concern about internet end-users, and more to do with the EU's paranoia about not being able to control what is published on the Internet.

    For web site owners and managers, the law is unclear, its demanding requirements having changed several times. If these requirements are not complied with, the maximum fine is 30,000 € "per infringement", otherwise known as per page. Thus, this fuzzy law can easily be subverted by the EUSSR to shut down any web site whose content they decide is too critical, or even subversive. Note that although this is an EU directive, different countries within the EU are applying it differently. It is not that clear how this law applies to web sites that are not domiciled within the EU, but could be accessed by visitors based in the EU. What a tangle!

    This article describes the first cookie law fines that have been imposed, in Spain.
    • "Reading the decision one gets the impression that the companies fined tried hard to cooperate and get things right. At the time the investigation started, most of the websites did not include any information about the use of cookies. By the time the investigation finished the companies had made a number attempts to satisfy the relevant transparency and consent requirements. These were not considered sufficient to meet the standard of compliance that the Spanish DPA seeks."  

    This is reminiscent of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, arbitrarily shouting "Off with their head", of the trial of Alice herself, and even Kafka's The Trial.


On privacy

  • In fact, cookies are not the only way to track an internet user. Modern methods use just Javascript (no cookies or other markers involved), as with the Facebook 'like' button, and leave no data on the user's browser.

  • Furthermore, your browser itself can be used to uniquely identify you.
    Go to this site and press the Test button to set how much information, other than from cookies, is available from your browser.

  • A recent article (September 2015) shows how much is harvested already by a UK government intelligence agency.
    Cookie privacy breaches are small beer by comparison.

How do we use cookies?

  • sometimes places small data files called cookies on your device (computer, tablet etc) for the purposes of analysis, relevance, advertising and software functioning, in order to make this site work effectively.

  • Any cookies are only used for the purposes described. They are not sold, or otherwise shared, with other organisations.

  • The cookie-related information is not used to identify you personally and the pattern data is fully under our control. These cookies are not used for any purpose other than those described here.

  • There are also session (non-persistent) cookies that help the web page you see to appear properly.

  • Enabling these cookies is not strictly necessary for the web site to work, but it will provide you with a better browsing experience. You can delete or block these cookies, but if you do that some features of this site may not work as intended.

  • Third-party cookies:

    Regarding advertising, whether from Google or elsewhere, note that third parties may be placing and reading cookies on your browser, or using web beacons to collect information, in the course of ads being served on the website. A cookie will not be placed by, but may placed by the advertiser and/or the advertising supplier (such as Google) if you click on an ad and are sent to a third-party website.

    • Google applies their third-party cookies to in order to deliver its services, to personalise ads and to analyse traffic. Information about your use of this site is called by Google. Here is more about how Google advertising uses cookies. and this is what Google has said previously:

    "Google, as a third party vendor, uses cookies to serve ads on your site. Google's use of the DART cookie enables it to serve ads to your users based on their visit to your sites and other sites on the Internet. Users may opt out of the use of the DART cookie by visiting the Google ad and content network privacy policy." • Videos embedded in our pages may use a cookie to anonymously gather statistics on how you got there and what videos you visited.

    • applies cookies as part of their provision of social media links and information.

    • Twitter and Facebook may also create cookies on being stimulated by activity. is not responsible or liable for the independent privacy policies of third-party sites and advertisers.

  • Our other use of cookies is to remember whether you have agreed (or not) to our use of cookies on this site as required by EU law! These cookies have a limited life span of one year.

  • By the way, cookies are used by most websites, the internet could not function without cookies!

How to control cookies

You can control and/or delete cookies as you wish – for details, see You can delete all cookies that are already on your computer and you can set most browsers to prevent them from being placed. If you do this, however, you may have to manually adjust some preferences every time you visit a site and some services and functionalities may not work. return to index


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