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Privacy and cookies
Last updated at 13:17 (UK time) 27 May 2011

Privacy and cookies

The FCO processes personal data for the purposes of promoting and protecting internationally the interests of the United Kingdom and its citizens and contributing to a stronger world community. Recipients of the personal data we may hold on you may include other UK Government Departments and public authorities.

The FCO is fully compliant with the Data Protection Act 1998. A copy of the charter is available to read and download.

1. Registration information

You do not have to register to use the Foreign and Commonwealth Office website, but you do need to register to receive updates about the site.

The registration information we require as mandatory for you to register is: your username (which does not need to be your real name), a password, and e-mail address. This information is stored securely on our database. Until such time as you choose to delete your account, your details are stored so that you do not need to re-register when you come back to the site.

You can change your registration preferences, e-mail address and and login details through the website at any time. If you wish to amend your personal profile, please click on the 'Subscribe' link at the top of the page, log in to your account, and check/uncheck the options available. If you are no longer interested in receiving FCO email alerts and wish to be removed from our database, click on the 'Unsubscribe' link on the same page and simply enter your username and password.

2. Feedback

You can send a message to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office using our Feedback form. If you are asking for information we do not already publish on the site, we will deal with your query. In doing so we may need to contact other Government Departments to find answers to your questions. If your question is technical, we may need to pass it to our technology supplier. In such cases we will only pass on personal data if it is necessary to do so, and we will not keep your personal data or records of our correspondence longer than necessary.

3. Cookie policy

In this section you will find information on what cookies may be set when you visit a FCO website and how to reject or delete those cookies.

When we provide services, we want to make them easy, useful and reliable. Where services are delivered on the internet, this sometimes involves placing small amounts of information on your device, for example, computer or mobile phone. These include small files known as cookies. They cannot be used to identify you personally.

These pieces of information are used to improve services for you through, for example:

  • enabling a service to recognise your device so you don't have to give the same information several times during one task
  • recognising that you may already have given a username and password so you don't need to do it for every web page requested
  • measuring how many people are using services, so they can be made easier to use and there's enough capacity to ensure they are fast

You can manage these small files yourself and learn more about them through at

3.1. How to control and delete cookies

The FCO will not use cookies to collect personally identifiable information about you. However, if you wish to restrict or block the cookies which are set by FCO websites, or indeed any other website, you can do this through your browser settings. The ‘Help’ function within your browser should tell you how.

Alternatively, you may wish to visit which contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of browsers. You will also find details on how to delete cookies from your machine as well as more general information about cookies.

Please be aware that restricting cookies may impact on the functionality of FCO websites.

If you wish to view your cookie code, just click on a cookie to open it. You'll see a short string of text and numbers. The numbers are your identification card, which can only be seen by the server that gave you the cookie.

For information on how to do this on the browser of your mobile phone you will need to refer to your handset manual.

To totally opt-out of our suppliers collecting any data regarding your interaction on FCO sites, please refer to section 3.3.2.

3.2. Local Shared Objects (Flash Cookies)

The FCO may make occasional and limited use of the Adobe Flash Player to deliver services. To improve user experience, Local Shared Objects - or Flash Cookies as they are commonly known - are employed to provide some features. Flash Cookies are stored on a user's terminal much the same as cookies are, however it is not possible to manage them at browser level in the same way.

The Adobe website provides comprehensive information on how to delete or disable Flash cookies either for a specific domain like or for all websites - see for details. Please be aware that restricting the use of Flash Cookies may affect the features available to you for Flash based applications.

3.3. Third Party Cookies

The FCO uses a number of suppliers who also set cookies on its websites on its behalf.

3.3.1 Cookies set for embedded social web content

To support our information provision and engagement, we sometimes embed photos and video content from websites such as YouTube and Flickr. As a result, when you visit a page with content embedded from, for example, YouTube or Flickr, you may be presented with cookies from these websites. The FCO does not control the dissemination of these cookies. You should check the third party websites for more information about these.

Cookies of this nature on FCO websites include:

 SERVICE  COOKIE NAME  datr  lsd  lu  gz
 Flickr  localization
 Flickr  B  guest_id  guest_id  _twitter_sess  original_referer  VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE  PREF  GEO  PREF

The FCO websites also carry embedded 'share' buttons to enable users of the site to easily share articles with their peers through a number of popular social networks. These sites may set a cookie when you are also logged in to or otherwise using their service. The FCO does not control the dissemination of these cookies and you should check the relevant third party website for more information about these.

3.3.2 Cookies set for web analytics

The FCO uses third party services to gather data regarding the usage of FCO sites on our behalf using cookies, log file data and code which is embedded on our website. The FCO uses this type of information to help improve the services it provides to its UK visitors and non-UK visitors.

These include:

 EXPIRY  c1  5 years  s1  5 years
 google analytics
 _utmb  30 minutes
 google analytics  _utma  2 years
 google analytics
 _utmz  6 months
 google analytics
 _utmc  Not set

comScore, an independent measurement and research company, gathers information regarding visitor activity on the FCO's websites and other FCO online services using Digital Analytix (formerly SiteStat). Data is gathered on the FCO's behalf using cookies, log file data, and code that are embedded on our websites. The FCO uses this information to help improve the services it provides to its users.

comScore has committed to handling personal data they receive from the European Economic Area in accordance with the EU's data protection requirements. For information on how comScore treats personal data please see the comScore Privacy Policy.

Google Analytics
The FCO also uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. Google Analytics sets a cookie in order to evaluate visitor’s use of the FCO sites.

Google stores the information collected by the cookie on servers in the United States. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google's behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google. By using the FCO sites, you consent to the processing of data about you by Google in the manner and for the purposes set out above.

For more information on the cookie set by Google Analytics, including information on how to opt out please go to:

3.4. List of the main FCO cookies

This is a list of the main cookies set by the FCO website, and what each is used for:

Unique identifier for sessions, this identifies a user’s session e.g. shopping basket, secure area logins.

Unique session identifier when editing email alert options or creating email subscription accounts.
Used by load balancer to map browser sessions to specific web application servers for non-secure http traffic.
Used by load balancer to map browser sessions to specific web application servers for https traffic.

The above cookies expire after 30 minutes or if the browser session is closed.

If this privacy policy changes in any way, we will place an updated version on this page. Regularly reviewing this page ensures you are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it and under what circumstances, if any, we will share it with other parties.

If you have a query or complaint about this privacy policy or about the site, you can contact us via the feedback form.