What are cookies?

A cookie is a small file of letters and numbers that is downloaded on to your computer when you visit a website. Cookies are used by many websites and can do a number of things, eg remembering your preferences, recording what you have put in your shopping basket, and counting the number of people looking at a website.

The rules on cookies are covered by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. The Regulations also cover similar technologies for storing information, eg Flash cookies. The Regulations were revised in 2011, and the ICO is responsible for enforcing these rules.

How do the cookie regulations affect me?

You may come across information about cookies on websites and be given choices about how some cookies are used. This might include, for example, being asked to agree to a cookie being used for a particular service, such as remembering your preferences on a site.

Organisations are responsible for providing clear information about the way they use cookies and ensuring that they give people using their website the right choices.

How can I control my cookies?

Browser controls

You can use your web browser to:

  • delete all cookies;
  • block all cookies;
  • allow all cookies;
  • block third-party cookies;
  • clear all cookies when you close the browser;
  • open a 'private browsing' / 'incognito' session, which allows you to browse the internet without storing local data; and
  • install add-ons and plug-ins to extend browser functionality.

Where to find information about controlling cookies

Useful information

  • A number of websites provide detailed information on cookies, including AboutCookies.org and AllAboutCookies.org.
  • The Internet Advertising Bureau website Your Online Choices allows you to install opt-out cookies across different advertising networks.
  • Google has developed a browser add-on to allow users to opt-out of Google Analytics across all websites which use this popular analytics product.
  • New technologies such as Mozilla's Do Not Track allow you to tell websites not to track you.
  • Internet Explorer has a feature called Tracking Protection Lists which allows you to import a list of websites you want to block.

Report your cookie concerns

We're asking people to report your cookie concerns. This will help us find out how organisations are complying with the cookie law. Rather than reply to each person individually, we will publish information about numbers and types of concerns reported, and let you know what we're doing about them.

Report your concerns